Cacio e Pepe With Mushrooms
A classic and simple pasta dish upgraded with buttery mushrooms. Cacio e Pepe means “cheese and pepper” in several Italian dialects. True to it’s name, the ingredients of the dish are very simple: black pepper, grated Pecorino Romano cheese (there are other versions made with Parmesan cheese too, and spaghetti. I love pecorino cheese so much so this pasta doesn’t have a chance around me! Pecorino cheese is made from sheep’s milk and for some it can be quite strong in flavour. Keep this in mind before investing the money and buying 3 cups of it. The recipe works just as well with Grana Padano or Parmesan though. It might be a good idea to ask for a sample of pecorino at the cheese counter to see what you think. I love it and I didn’t change a thing from Alison’s recipe!!
I couldn’t wait to try her version with loads of shiitake mushrooms in it from her new book called Pasta Friday after her wildly popular Pasta Friday nights that she hosts at her home with up to 50 guests a week. She started this tradition in August 2017 after her grandmother passed away and after she sold her shares in her successful restaurant. She was going through a dark period in her life and noticed she felt better when she was in the kitchen cooking for friends. She put an email list together and got started with her Friday tradition. And I’m so glad she did - she documented her exciting pasta Friday nights on Instagram (that’s how I know Alison) and thankfully recorded all her recipes and is sharing them via her beautiful book.
Her book is a collection of 52 delicious pasta dishes that are cleverly organized by season so that you have a pasta dish every week of the year and for every season. Not only does she share the recipe but she also shares wine pairings which I love (I love wine but I’m not always great at pairing what with what) and she includes one of each for each dish - a white and red that goes with each dish. Each pasta dish is made with a different shape pasta but each recipe includes other suggested pasta shapes along with what to serve it with - i.e. cheese, fresh herbs, chili flakes, chilies in oil etc.
One of my favorite parts of the book is the conversions she includes. Sometimes you have a recipe but you don’t know if you have to double or triple the recipe if you are feeding a crowd. She takes the guesswork out of it and shares her conversions - how much pasta per person, and how much sauce per serving of pasta as well. So helpful! And her photography is stunning too. It’s by Sara Remington and it’s beautifully done. You may think pasta is sooo easy to style and photograph - but it’s not - let me tell you - it takes planning, timing, and a lot of zhuzhing up. The sauce can look stale in minutes on a dish so it needs constant primping and re-saucing between shots to keep it looking fresh out of the pot. We shot for pasta company for a year and man it can get challenging to find new and exiting ways to present it - well Sara did it 52 times and successfully - I want to sit down in front of each of those plates of pasta.
As you can see I love the book and if you are a pasta lover you willl love the pasta combos in this book. I loved Alison’s cacio e Pepe with mushrooms and I had to share it with you guys. She did hers with Pici but I used the spaghetti that she sent me in her big and beautiful package. She sent me this beautiful book plus pasta by Rustichella d’abruzzo, one of her fav pasta brands along with a wooden spoon with Pasta Friday written on it! I was so surprised and couldn’t wait to get cooking from her book. I realized I didn’t have a cacio e Pepe recipe up on the blog and thought I would include Alison’s as I loved her recipe and it includes meaty mushrooms which I can’t get enough of. This recipe is perfect with or without them though if you’re not a fan of the fungi. It’s pure comfort food and so simple - perfect for a Friday!!
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 lb shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and halved lengthwise
- Kosher salt
- 1 lb pici
- 2½ to 3 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano
- 2 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper or peppercorns crushed with a mortar and pestle
- ¼ cup heavy cream, warmed (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 250°F. Place an ovenproof serving bowl in the oven to stay warm.
- Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt, and sauté for 8 minutes, until softened and beginning to crisp.
- Fill a 6-quart pot with water. Bring it to a boil and add 2 tbsps of salt Add the pasta, and cook until slightly firmer than al dente, 1 minute less than it says on the package.
- Remove the serving bowl from the oven, and use tongs to transfer the pasta into the warm bowl (keep the heat on under the water). Add the mushrooms to the pasta and toss to combine.
- Place the cheese and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk in 1½ cups of the pasta cooking water until it forms a paste. If the cheese looks too clumpy, add some heavy cream, a little at a time. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and quickly toss, slowly adding another ½ cup of cooking water to loosen the sauce to your desired consistency. Serve immediately.