Cacio e pepe is one of my top three favorite pasta dishes of all time. It’s simple, to the point, and packed with luscious texture and flavor. The last restaurant I worked at made an incredible cacio e pepe, but they added a slight twist : shallots. Oh! And a sous vide poached egg on top. It was such a creamy and decadent dish, I saved it only for special occasions. It truly tasted like such a treat, and I didn’t want to ruin it by overindulging.
Although my kitchen skills aren’t exactly parallel to an executive chef (by a long shot), I can definitely recreate dishes in my own way. Like I mentioned before, cacio e pepe is an easy concept, and not difficult to execute. Cacio e pepe literally translates to “cheese and pepper”, and that’s really all you need here.
Shallots bring a mild garlic and onion flavor to the dish, and add just a touch of sweetness to cut through the richness of all the cheese. Shallots are one of my favorite kitchen staples because they are so subtle in their contributions, but still make a considerable impact on flavor. I love me some garlic, but sometimes it’s just too overpowering. For such a simple dish like cacio e pepe, you don’t want to take away from it’s core ingredients.
Cooking the shallots in a little white wine allows them to soften, and adds an additional depth of flavor. Freshly cooked pasta is also highly recommended, but let’s be honest. I didn’t use fresh pasta; I only dream of having fresh pasta available in my kitchen everyday.
Dried pasta will work just fine, and I recommend choosing a noodle that will readily absorb so much luxurious sauce. I used spaghetti, but I’d suggest bucatini or linguine, as well. Bucatini is a strand of pasta with a hole in the center, which makes it ideal for absorbing the sauce in your cacio e pepe. Linguine or spaghetti are thick enough to carry the weight of the sauce, and absorb enough to make each bite flavorful. It’s your call on what noodle you choose!
After the shallots have cooked in the wine, it’s time to toss in the pasta. Using tongs, ently transfer it directly from it’s boiling pot into the shallots and white wine. Immediately add pecorino cheese and pepper, and do not throw away your pasta water. That stuff is like gold, especially for cacio e pepe. Add the pasta water, just a little bit at a time, until your sauce develops into a smooth, creamy, decadent combination of angels’ voices and unicorn kisses.
Mm hmm. It’s like that.
Pair your cacio e pepe with a killer bottle of Chianti, or a Sangiovese. Think of an earthy red with some acidity; you want it to play with the pasta dish and cut through the richness. Both of these wines are native to Italy and know pasta very well, so they definitely get my recommendation.
Cheers to you, your dinner tonight, and your cacio e pepe with shallots soon! If you get the chance to make it, I’d love to see it! Tag #aflavorjournal on Instagram, or tag me in your post! Always feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have, too. <3
cacio e pepe with shallots
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 medium shallot thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup white wine (not sweet)
- 4 oz. pasta (bucatini, spaghetti, linguine)
- 1 tsp. cracked black pepper freshly cracked
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup pecorino cheese freshly grated
- 1/4 cup pasta water more if necessary
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta. (Be sure to add pasta according to package directions, and remove it when it's "al dente" about a minute before the directions say. Time this accordingly to the sauce!)
- In a large saute pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat through. Toss in shallots, cook until starting to soften. 1 -2 minutes.
- Add white wine, reducing as it cooks into the shallots. 5-7 minutes. You want the alcohol to cook out, and the wine to reduce to a point of nearly no liquid left.
- Once pasta is al dente, safely transfer about 3 tablespoons of the pasta water into your shallot pan. Add the butter along with the pasta water, and melt to combine.
- Use tongs to transfer the al dente pasta into the shallot mixture. Add pecorino cheese, one tablespoon of olive oil, freshly cracked black pepper, and toss to coat until the cheese has completely melted into the pasta.
- Slowly add 1 Tbsp. of pasta water at a time to the pasta, and continuously toss to coat, until the sauce has developed a smooth, creamy texture.
- Add just a touch more of freshly cracked black pepper, toss. Serve immediately.