(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

Gabe and I were engaged in Rome, so any dish that hints back to our days there — wandering Italy’s cobblestone streets, walking hand-in-hand, dreaming about our lives together — brings out a certain bit of romance.

Cacio e Pepe is essentially just three ingredients, and yet its final flavor is deep, rich, and so satisfying, especially if said pasta is served in a dish made of baked cheese, as we are known to do.

(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)
(Image credit: Running Press)



→ Buy Ashley's Book! Date Night In by Ashley Rodriguez


→ Read more of Ashley's writing on her blog: Not Without Salt

Testing Notes

The parmesan frico from this recipe is so fun! While the bowls are such a great way to serve the pasta, they also look great served in just flat discs. You can even break the discs into fun shards that you tuck into the pasta, which would then let you snack on a piece yourself while the pasta is cooking!

While I used a regular frying pan for the sauce, I would make it in a nonstick pan the next time, as the residual cheese sauce stuck to the bottom of the pan I used and made it hard to clean.

- Christine, 2015

Cacio e Pepe

Serves 2

For the parmesan frico:
1 1/3 cups (120 grams) packed, freshly grated Parmesan

For the pasta:
8 ounces (230 grams) dried bucatini or spaghetti
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for finishing
1 cup (45 grams) finely grated pecorino, divided

To make the parmesan frico, preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using 2/3 cup of Parmesan, form a thick, even, 6-inch circle of cheese on the parchment. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cheese melts and is golden.

Carefully remove the parchment from the tray and flip over onto an inverted bowl. Peel off the parchment and gently press the Parmesan circle around the inverted bowl. Cool for 30 seconds and then remove. Repeat with the remaining cheese. Frico can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container.

To make the cacio e pepe, heat a large stockpot of water that tastes of the sea (heavily salted). Add the pasta and cook according to package directions.

While the pasta cooks, melt the butter with 1 teaspoon pepper in a large sauté pan set over medium-low heat. Let the pepper infuse for 1 minute and then turn off the heat.

When the pasta is al dente, before draining, remove a scant 1/2 cup (120 ml) pasta water and add to the butter. Simmer for 2 minutes over low heat.

Drain the pasta and add to the sauté pan, along with 3/4 cup (30 g) pecorino. Toss the pasta in the sauce with tongs until the cheese has melted and created a creamy sauce that coats the pasta. If the sauce is still wet, continue to simmer until the water has reduced and clings to the pasta.

Place a Parmesan frico at the bottom of two bowls and divide the pasta between them. Finish with the remaining pecorino and more freshly ground black pepper.

Reprinted with permission from Date Night In © 2014 Ashley Rodriguez, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.

More posts in A Sweet Valentine's Day Menu from Ashley Rodriguez