Cacio e pepe is classic: peppery cheesy noodle goodness.
You don’t mess with classic, am I right? Well, the other day I saw some noodles on insta and I was immediately drawn in. They were super saucy, extra cheesy, and looked so cravable. It was a twist on cacio e pepe – instead of the starchy pasta water, pecorino, pepper, and pasta route, it went for a pecorino mornay sauce flecked with pepper.
What is Mornay sauce
Mornay sauce, for the uninitiated, is a classic French sauce built off of béchamel, a flour thickened milk sauce. Traditional mornay is made with gruyère cheese but this one uses pecorino, which is the cheese normally used for cacio e pepe. You can use parmesan if that’s what you have but if you see pecorino at the store, it’s worth a buy. It’s slightly sharper, more intense, and less nutty than parmesan because it’s made with sheep’s milk instead of cow. It really makes cacio e pepe amazing and if you’re looking for the same flavor cacio as the ones you get in an Italian restaurant, the cheese is the answer.
The best cacio e pepe
I’m a huge fan of cacio e pepe in all its forms and its simplicity but sometimes we get messages from people who have problems with cheese clumping up or sauce that isn’t as smooth, glossy, or thick as they like. This cacio e pepe-ish pasta is here to save the day. Because the sauce is thickened with flour and thinned out with starchy pasta water, it has more body and clinging power than the classic sauce.
Here’s how to make it
First, start off by melting some butter in a pan with plenty of freshly cracked black pepper. Black pepper is a key flavor in cacio e pepe and toasting it in butter helps coax out it’s spicy floralness. The heat of the butter will draw out flavor and the pepper will infuse the butter with all that goodness.
Thicken the sauce
Next, it’s time to add our thickening agent, flour. Stir the flour in completely making sure there are no lumps. At this point, our goal is to coat eat flour granule with fat so that the flour easily combines with the milk to create a smooth sauce.
Lump-free cacio e pepe
It’s time to gradually add the milk. Adding it in slowly will help prevent lumps. Don’t worry if the sauce clumps up right away, just keep whisking over low heat.
Glorious glorious cheese
Take the sauce off the heat and add the cheese in batches. The residual heat of the sauce will melt the cheese. The sauce will probably look kind of lumpy. Don’t worry though, we’re going to smooth it out with starchy pasta water. At this point, if you want to cool down the sauce and pop it in the fridge in a container, you can do so. If you do, you can have almost instant pasta any day of the week.
When you’re ready to make your pasta, cook the pasta according to the instructions. Heat up the cacio sauce over medium heat, and whisk in some hot starchy pasta water until the sauce thins out slightly. Add the pasta and toss, adding extra pasta water if sauce is too thick. Finish everything off with extra cheese and pepper and enjoy!
Super Creamy Cacio e Pepe Style Pasta Recipe
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 3 oz finely grated pecorino about 1.5 cups
- 1/4 cup pasta water more if needed
- 6 oz pasta I used homemade garganelli