Cacio e Pepe is a bit like Roman Mac and Cheese, except both simpler and more complex. Whereas we normally make a roux or add egg yolks and a cheesy spectrum of creams and oranges, Cacio is a barren ingredient wasteland. Sheep’s milk cheese, ground black pepper, pasta.
At this point, you might be wondering where the sauce comes from.
Something happens when spaghetti cooks in water. Starches release. Those starches thicken sauces, and even make them, if given the chance. Cue: complexity. It is so simple, it doesn’t make sense.
You know the rules. When in Rome, do as the Nonsensical do: crave, complicate, and reinterpret simple intricacy. I sprinkled black peppery cheese on melting butter. I cooked a sandwich on top of it as it frico-ed.
we were not the strand of pasta between
dog mouths, we were not
lit up like untangled knots of lights
strings strung in tight corners and wrapped
around bits and bobs
a garbling, muddled
spaghetti too big it hurts to open
that wide / each time
Gulp. Good night, Moon.
Cacio e Pepe Frico Grilled Cheese
Makes 1 sandwich
2 ounces semisoft cheese, like fontina and/or provolone, finely grated
1/2 ounce pecorino cheese, finely grated
2 slices sourdough bread
1 1/2 tbsp high-quality salted butter (I like Kerrygold!)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
In a small bowl, mix together cheeses. Divide all but 2 tbsp of cheese mixture between slices of bread. Spread 1/2 tbsp butter on the top side of the sandwich, only. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp butter in a skillet on medium heat. When melted, evenly sprinkle with 1/4 tsp black pepper, then 1 tbsp of cheese mixture. Place the unbuttered half of the sandwich atop the melting cheese, allowing the bottom to become golden brown before flipping, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle the top half of the sandwich with the addition 1 tbsp of cheese and 1/4 tsp of black pepper. When the bottom side is perfectly golden and brown, use a spatula to gently lift the frico from the pan and flip the sandwich over to cook the other side (NOTE: it’s totally fine if some of the cheese you sprinkled falls off here, because it’s going to get frico-ed, anyway). When the sandwich is fully cooked, with golden brown frico on both sides (about 2 more minutes), transfer to a plate. Let rest for 1-2 minutes before gently slicing on the diagonal and NOT. SHARING. WITH. ANYBODY.