When in Rome…

…do as the Romans do.

Rome is one of my favourite cities in the world. I love to visit it, and never get tired of walking around looking at the architecture, discovering pretty corners and eating ice-cream. I swear there are more ice cream shops per square kilometer in Rome than anywhere else on the planet – there’s another one every few metres, and they all have hundreds of different flavours to choose from… I’ll have to arrange a visit to Rome so that I can take some ice cream pics!

The first time I went to Rome I don’t think I really knew what to expect. I had recently turned twenty (seems so long ago!) and it was my first trip away with the Italian boy that didn’t involve meeting with other friends. I remember sitting on the Spanish steps eating my very first Italian ice cream, already speaking the strange brand of Italo-inglese that has since practically become a language for us as a couple.

However, one of my fondest memories of Rome is of a huge plate of cheeeeeeeeesssssseeeeeeyyyyyy spaghetti and a good glass of robust red wine.

This was cacio e pepe a dish I order every time I go to Rome because you don’t get it anywhere else, and the Romans are funny about giving you the recipe so I didn’t know how to make it. Even the Italian boy’s mamma, the kitchen superwoman, geve up after a few failed attempts.

We tried egg. we tried different cheeses. We tried milk. We tried water. Nothing worked.

Then a friend of mine from Rome, Mirella, agreed to be a traitor to the cause in exchange for learning how to make proper cheesecake… and the answer is very simple. In fact, we almost had it, but not quite…

cheese and black pepper spaghetti
about to be served

Cacio e pepe from Lazio

You will need

one hunk of parmesan cheese
one hunk of pecorino romano
100g of spaghetti per person (pretty big portions)
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
a pinch of salt for the pasta water

1. Put the pan on the hob and start to boil up the water for the pasta.

2. Grate the cheese so that you get two equal sized piles of each type of cheese:


3.  When the water is boiling, salt it and add the pasta.

4. Wait until the pasta is almost cooked, then place a frying pan on the hob at a low heat

5. Add the cheese and black pepper, then immediately start to spoon in some of the cooking water from the pasta – just a couple of ladlefuls.

cacio e pepe segreto
best kept secret in Rome

THIS is the secret. It’s water alright, but not just any water, the water the pasta cooked in. It’s the starch (see the white foam on top of the water? That’s the starch or amido from the pasta) which makes this recipe so creamy and delicious. I should have guessed this, I use the foam from the pasta water to thicken my sauces all the time… doh!

6. Drain the pasta, stir it all together making sure all the pasta is well covered, and serve with a nice glass of full bodied red wine.

We had Montepulciano from just outside Rome, just to stay in theme!

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