“Ma chi e` “Alfredo”? Alfredo non esiste in Italia! E` un nome, non e` cibo!” I’m in the car with my Italian driver and we’re laughing at the tourist traps, enticing tourists with “specials” from US chain restaurants. He says, in the emotional way only an Italian can, hands flying everywhere, “But who is, “Alfredo”? Alfredo does not exist in Italy! It is a name, not food!” And he goes on and on.
If you ever find yourself in the company of Italians, ask them about Alfredo sauce and you’re sure to laugh for hours! However, the lack of Alfredo does not mean the lack of fabulous cheesy pastas!
In Italy, or Rome, specifically, the king of cheesy pasta is Cacio e Pepe. It is sure to delight! Rather than a thick, soupy sauce, this dish is made from only a few ingredients. No butter, no cream, just Pecorino Romano, black pepper, and a little bit of the water you’ve just cooked the pasta in.
Confused yet? This incredibly simple dish requires a bit of chemistry and timing to have it turn out perfectly, but it is a terribly fun and tasty one to try at home if you have the patience for it.
For the perfect texture like you find in Italy, we recommend our artisanal pastas. Try Michelis Egidio Tagliolini Egg Pasta.
Cook the pasta to “al dente” perfection and pull it out of the water. Here is the important part: be sure to reserve the hot water you’ve just used to cook the pasta. The starches in it make the magic happen.
Heat your pot before adding the pasta and other ingredients. Add the still slightly wet pasta and continue by mixing in the cheese and a little bit of the pasta water, it’s important to stir vigorously and keep stirring until the cheese begins to melt and combine with the pasta water to produce a creamy coating on each noodle.
This can be a bit tricky, but if it gets too dry, try adding more water. If too wet, add more cheese. Once you have reached a sauce-like coating, grind on some black pepper and enjoy. Simple ingredients at their finest!
Unlike the “alfredo” we’ve come to assume is Italian, this pasta dish is light as most you find in Italy are.
Italians do not look down on alfredo because it’s bad, but because so many visitors to their country come in asking for the same old favorites on chain menus back home rather than giving their authentic cuisine a chance to impress. This one certainly will!
If a trip to Rome is not in your near future, no problem! You can still make this cheesy pasta dish at home and treat your family to a true Italian specialty.