Pici Cacio e Pepe
Cook time: 15 minsPrep time: 25 minsServes: 4
Good Food, Good Company is our series of easy, delicious recipes from some of our favourite cooks. Food to cook, eat and share in good company.
Hercules Noble, the sourdough and dinner party master, shares his recipe for Pici Cacio e Pepe.
A truly iconic Italian dish, loved by all. But did you know this is actually one of the simplest pasta dishes out? Homemade, hand rolled semolina pasta with a super cream sauce. No special equipment needed.
Dough - 4x portions
- 200g water
Sauce - 2x portions
- 60g grated pecorino
- 60g grated Parmesan
- small knob of butter
Biodegradable cling film or beeswax paper
Storage / shelf life:
Dough stores in fridge for up to 48 hours in cling film
Start with the dough. Measure out your semolina and 00 flour in a big bowl, before combining with a good pinch of fine sea salt. Mix thoroughly. Add your water and olive oil. Mix with a falk until combined. Then get stuck in with your hands, remove from the bowl and begin to knead on a bench top. It should begin to turn from a rough shaggy dough to a smooth dough over the course of about 5 - 10 minutes. You should NOT need to add any extra flour to avoid sticking. The dough will be dry enough to avoid sticking. Once smooth, wrap in biodegradable cling film and allow to rest in a cool environment (fridge or outdoors) for at least 30 minutes and up to 48 hours (if in fridge).
Remove from the fridge. Let’s start to roll the pasta. Cut off as much pasta from the dough ball ss you want. As I mentioned, the dough makes 4 portions, so if you want to make 2 portions, take half and leave the rest in the fridge. Roll into a log roughly the same thickness and shape as a cucumber. Then, using a bench scraper or sharp knife, cut into thumb size pieces. Then using one hand, begin to roll out each piece individually from the centre. You can apply a decent amount of pressure here. Don’t worry, the dough shouldn’t break easily. Once it’s longer than the width of your hand, use both hands and continue rolling. Starting from the centre and rolling back and forth as your hands slowly move outwards. Slowly stretching the noodle. See video. Make sure you roll it about half the thickness of your pinky finger, as it will expand when cooking. We don’t want it to be too stodgy! Once rolled out, I like to cut mine into about 10cm - 15cm pieces. No bigger, as then it can be difficult to eat! Add to a well floured tray and then set aside until ready. Pici pasta, done.
Get a small pot of water boiling. Add salt, but not enough to make it taste like the sea. We only want a minimal amount of water as when we’re cooking the pasta, we want the water to become super starchy. This is an important step to achieve super silky sauce.
In a medium hot saucepan, toast some mixed peppercorns for a minute or two. Then roughly crush in a pestle and mortar.
Once your water hits a high boil, add your pasta, ensuring you shake off excess flour. Cook for 10 minutes on a rolling boil. This helps avoid any pasta sticking!
In the meantime, melt some butter on medium heat and cook for a few minutes in a good quality pan. Anything with a heavy bottom will do the trick. Make sure it isn’t too small, as we’re gonna be doing a lot of tossing here.
Two minutes before your pasta is ready, lower the heat on your pan and add a few splashes of pasta water. It will splatter a bit so just watch out for that. Then once your pasta hits 10 minutes, give it a taste. It should still have a good bite. Like very al dente. We’re going to finish cooking it in the pan. So using tongs or a spider, drag your pasta into the pan. If you want to drain it, please ensure you reserve at least one cups worth of starchy cooking water. Add half of your crushed peppercorns and start to toss the pasta. Coating it in water, butter and peppercorns.
Remove the pan from the heat. Now add your pecorino and Parmesan. Tossing to help emulsify. This should now look like a delicious, thick sauce. Sauce looks perfect right? But wait, I want you to add more pasta water. Like a few more tablespoons. And toss again to emulsify. Otherwise this sauce will dry out very quickly once you plate it up. The pasta needs to look as if it's basically swimming in sauce. This will help you achieve the perfect silky texture. This is why we cooked the pasta in a minimal amount of water. So it gets extra starchy and helps create such an oozy sauce. NO NEED FOR SALT. The salty pasta water and cheese is enough. Taste and feel free to add more pepper and cheese.
Add to a warm plate or bowl and garnish with cheese and peppercorns. Done. You’ll notice what I mean about the sauce thickening up about 2 minutes after plating.