Cooking with Nathan : Cacio e Pepe (sbagliato)

It’s Sunday night. Lunch was a brace of spritzes and possibly the best porchetta sandwich in the world at the Corner Pub in Dorsoduro. But now I’m hungry again. There’s a fine piece of tuna in the freezer that I could make a pasta sauce from. All I need to do is travel back in time four hours and defrost it.

The fridge is a sad affair. There’s a quarter of a radicchio and some unexciting brie. Will it have to be pizza? No! Because there’s a big block of parmesan, some pepper, and some dried pasta. And if you have these you need never go hungry again.

Spaghetti cacio e pepe is hip. Tragically so. More than that, everyone has their own recipe for it and will tell you that you’re doing it wrong.

1) I know I am doing it wrong.

2) I am hungry and I do not care.

So here is my recipe for Incorrect Cacio e Pepe. Or, if you prefer, Cacio e Pepe sbagliato.

Ingredients (serves 2 people)

150g linguine (should be spaghetti but I haven’t got any)

Parmesan. Lots. (should be pecorino romano. You know what I’m going to say, don’t you..?)

2 tsp peppercorns (these, I have)


  1. Put the pasta water on to boil.
  2. Put some music on. This won’t take much time. This is not a Ring Cycle dish. We had Alban Berg’s piano sonata, and that pretty much covered it.
  3. Pour two modest glasses of prosecco. One for you, one for Caroline. Or, if Caroline is not there, your wife, husband, partner etc…
  4. Toast the two teaspoons of peppercorns for a few minutes, just to release the aromas, and then grind them with a pestle and mortar.
  5. Finely grate a lot of parmesan. I don’t really know how much. Just a lot. Fifty grams plus should do it, but, if you want to, keep grating until you can grate no more…
  6. Beat in a little pasta water until you have a nice emulsified sauce (I found two coffee cups worked well as a measure).
  7. Drain and toss the cooked pasta in the sauce. Serve with copious quantities of red wine.

For a quick tea with staples from the fridge, this is hard to beat. I could have happily eaten as much again. Caroline could have done with twice as much cheese, and half as much pepper, but I rather like the way that this makes your mouth sing with the heat.

At the end of the day, this is a very personal dish. Everyone will have their own variation. Everyone will tell you that your version is wrong. My version is made with what’s in the fridge and, as such, it suits me just fine…


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