What makes this dish great is its simplicity. Traditional cacio e pepe doesn’t include greens, but I find some arugula lightens up the dish. Feel free to swap the arugula for peas or asparagus spears or even artichoke hearts. It’s an all-in-one meal, no salad needed! The starchy pasta cooking water is an important element of the recipe, so don’t forget to reserve some before you drain the pasta; you can’t make the sauce without it! I love how the gooey melted cheese mixes with the pepper and pancetta. This is my friend Shane’s favorite dish and I make it for him often.
YIELD: SERVES 6
SERVE WITH: A MEDIUM-BODIED RED WINE
- Kosher salt
- 1 pound creste di gallo pasta (cock’s comb shaped) or other short pasta
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1⁄3 pound pancetta, diced
- 11⁄2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more (optional) for serving
- 1 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
- 2 tablespoons (1⁄4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 cups packed baby arugula, roughly chopped
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook 2 minutes less than the package directions, about 8 minutes. Drain well, reserving 11⁄2 cups of the pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, heat a large straight-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and pancetta. Cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the pancetta is crisp, about 10 minutes. Add the pepper and toast it, stirring often, for about a minute, or until fragrant. Add 1⁄2 cup of the reserved pasta water and scrape up any bits that are sticking to the bottom of the skillet.
Add the pasta and sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Add another 1⁄2 cup of the reserved pasta water and stir to coat all of the pasta in the cheese. Add the pecorino and butter, and stir to combine, creating a light, creamy cheese sauce. Add the arugula and cook until wilted. Add additional reserved pasta water as needed to maintain the light sauce consistency. Serve with more grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, if desired.
Reprinted from Giada’s Italy. Copyright © 2018 by GDL Foods Inc. Photographs by Aubrie Pick. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.