Tuscan Cucina Povera: Pici Cacio Pepe
In Umbria, we call thick spaghetti “strangozzi” but for Tuscans, they’re “pici.” And no better way to savor those thick ropes of pasta than with cacio pepe (“cheese and pepper”), but pecorino (sheep’s milk cheese, semi-aged – Parmesan won’t do!).
On an icy January in southern Tuscany, Pino and I warmed up with a dish of pici cacio pepe along with a local glass of a robust vino rosso in a local cafe’ on the main square.
…..and then we went down a nearby medieval alleyway to see the early 14th- c guard tower Pino’s restoration crew would stabilize: the reason for that day’s jaunt to the small walled Tuscan town, Terranova Bracciolini.
When I can, I enjoy going “along for the ride” on Pino’s investigative trips…..and each one always includes a tasty lunch….!
Enjoy this recipe for Cacio Pepe:
Ingredients (for 4 persons)
- 400 grams (14 ounces) of pici/strangozzi (if possible) or spaghetti
- 200 grams (7 ounces) of grated pecorino (or more, if desired) – freshly grated (best!)
- 10 grams (0,35 ounces) ground black pepper
- black pepper – 1/2 tsp per person
- ladles of pasta cooking water
- salt, q.b. (“quanto basta” or “as much as you need”)
Cook pasta in abundant salted boiling water until al dente and when draining pasta, set aside about 2 ladlefuls of the cooking water. To drained pasta, stir in a bit of the cooking water to make a creamy sauce, adding pecorino and pepper. (Another method: make a creamy sauce of the boiling pasta water, pecorino and pepper and add to pasta, just drained. Optional – some add 2- 3 T of olive oil, though not part of the traditional recipe). The boiling cooking water is key: the heat melts the cheese, while the starches in the water help bind the pepper and cheese to the pasta. The more aged the cheese, the higher the water temperature to dissolve it as it contains less water.
This is certainly a recipes of la cucina povera originating in the pastoral traditions of the Latium and Abruzzo mountains where shepherds herding their flocks, carried just the essential for nourishment: pasta, black pepper and their sheep’s cheeses.
See how to make cacio pepe here
Read about more good eating on a Pino trip for restoration – in Abruzzo
Click here for a note on a Latium jaunt – and local cuisine
Many an Abruzzo trip with Pino has included a lunch stop here
Read about another favorite spot in southern Tuscany for pici all’aglione