Cheese (cacio in Roman dialect) has always been the main condiment of pasta. Tomato replaced it only in the 20th century since it took quite a while before this vegetable from America was fully accepted as a key ingredient of the Italian cuisine.
Therefore Cacio e pepe pasta has the flavour of old, forgotten times with its sheer simplicity . In 1787, just to mention one of the brightest minds of old Europe, Goethe mentioned how cheese was the natural match of pasta. Adding pepper (pepe in Italian) would make it tastier but would also increase your thirst, which was a good thing for the restaurant owner as you would order more and more wine…
You basically have two versions of Cacio e Pepe: the traditional one, dry with most of the cheese (Pecorino, a very dry and seasoned sheep cheese) and the pepper added on top; and the creamy one, newer and trendier, mostly based on a sauce made of boiling water, pecorino and pepper.
Never ever add butter or oil, it would spoil the perfect balance of the ingredients.
The best wine for Cacio e Pepe is red.
And here is our selection of the best Cacio e Pepe in town with their distinguishing recipe, cooking and presentation features.
2 Da Gianni, which is actually named after its Cacio e Pepe has a dry, tradional version with tonnarelli (square shaped spaghetti). A Former Italian Prime minister who lives right on top of the restaurant often goes down to get take-away cacao e pepe.
3 Antica Pesa. Robert de Niro and Meryl Streep’s favorite for the incredibly creamy Cacio e Pepe.
4 Al 25. Hand-made thick spaghetti with a very high-end pecorino. Creamy.
5 Sora Margherita. in the very heart of the Jewish ghetto, the door is all covered with the best restaurant guide books’ stickers. The pasta shape for their cacao e pepe is egg fettuccine. Optional ricotta cheese topping.
6 Vino e Camino. The main restaurant in Bracciano won the prize for the best Cacio e Pepe in the whole region. Here in Rome it is as good as Bracciano’s.
7 Open Colonna. It was actually this restaurant and its chef who turned Cacio e Pepe into a trendy dish again.
8 Osteria dell’Angelo. Very al dente, a lot of pecorino and plenty of pepper. Strong version
9 Osteria all’Arco. Three different kinds of pecorino, just a little bit of pepper. Delicate.
10 Roberto e Loretta. Pepper comes from Malaysia, accompanied by crispy artichoke leaves.
You may also be interested in reading our Carbonara hit list.