Over the subsequent few weeks, we are going to proceed tucking into the historical past behind the 4 traditional pastas of Rome: amatriciana, cacio e pepe, carbonara, and gricia. Final week, we devoured the historical past of carbonara. This week, we’re sitting down to an enormous saucy plate of cacio e pepe. In Italian, cacio e pepe interprets merely to cheese and pepper. Very similar to its title, cacio e pepe is simple and uncomplicated. It solely has three components. However don’t let that idiot you! Cacio e pepe’s simplicity is what makes it so marvelously moreish. You’ll end up whipping a bowl up extra typically than you’d care to confess. The tangy, salty, and pungent Pecorino Romano, the colourful and spicy freshly floor black pepper, and the starchy cooking water rework effortlessly and nearly magically into a fragile sauce that coats each strand of pasta completely. It’s very practically too simple to make and wildly too simple to eat.
Meals historians proceed to invest concerning the correct origins of cacio e pepe. Whereas Katie Parla in Tasting Rome contends that “like carbonara, cacio e pepe is a relative newcomer to the Roman repertoire, first arriving within the mid-twentieth century,” others recommend that “cacio e pepe has lengthy been a Roman favourite that’s merely flown below the radar,” in keeping with Prepare dinner’s Illustrated. These people consider that cacio e pepe descended from “a recipe referred to as ‘de lasanis’ (which) requires cut-up lasagna sheets, comprised of fermented dough, to be cooked in water and tossed with grated cheese.” This got here from the Thirteenth-century medieval Italian cookbook titled Liber de Coquina. Correspondingly, “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe revealed an account of his travels in Italy within the late 1700s, through which he writes of the pasta he encountered that was additionally wearing cheese.” Was this the predecessor to cacio e pepe? Probably, however nobody can say for sure.
Some declare that cacio e pepe “first appeared centuries in the past amongst shepherds” as described by Emily Monaco for the BBC. These shepherds would “faucet into private shops of dried pasta and pepper; low-cost, simple to move and proof against spoilage, these two components had been mixed with the cheese (comprised of milk of the herders’ flocks) to make a scrumptious, easy dish that stored them heat on chilly evenings.” Furthering this legend, Alessandra Argiolas, advertising supervisor for Sardinian Pecorino producers Argiolas Formaggi, explains that “black pepper straight stimulates the warmth receptors and helped the shepherds to guard themselves from the chilly and the pasta assured a number of power.” By many accounts, dishes like cacio e pepe and its cousin carbonara “seemingly received their begin, not within the mountains, however within the mines and factories that when surrounded the Lazio area encompassing Rome, close to the place low-income households as soon as lived,” in keeping with Angelo Carotenuto, a local Roman and proprietor and supervisor of LivItaly Excursions. Each are compelling arguments, contemplating the components in cacio e pepe and carbonara (i.e., cheese, guanciale, and pasta) had been cheap and didn’t spoil simply—to not point out, these dishes had been hearty and satisfying making them preferrred for hard-working shepherds and laborers alike.
Ultimately, nobody can pinpoint precisely when cacio e pepe originated or who exactly created it, however within the phrases of the late American chef Anthony Bourdain, cacio e pepe “might be the best factor within the historical past of the world.” Filled with angst, he goes on to say, “if I am in Rome for under 48 hours, I might take into account it a sin in opposition to God to not eat cacio e pepe, essentially the most uniquely Roman of pastas, in some crummy little joint the place Romans eat.” Dramatic, however cacio e pepe is really one among life’s easiest pleasures.