i have a bit of a thing for black pepper - i love the idea of it being one of the main ingredients in a recipe. this was the main thing that encouraged me to create this black pepper and taleggio risotto. it’s also what drew me to rowley leigh’s recipe for spaghetti cacio e pepe.
this roman dish (from rome, rather than from ancient times) is very simple – freshly crushed black pepper, pecorino romano (yes, it does need to be pecorino romano) and (good quality) spaghetti. rowley says “when made properly, the rasping acidity of the pecorino and the fierce bite of the pepper are a formidable combination, but the method is equally beguiling.”
and that will be the other thing that intrigued me about this recipe – the spaghetti is cooked only briefly and then finished risotto style, with you stirring it while gradually adding some of the pasta’s cooking water plus the pepper and cheese.
the result is fabulous and the richness belies the simplicity of the ingredients - the water, pepper and cheese combine to coat the spaghetti, which has a silkiness that is similar to pasta cooked using the absorption method. as you can see there were also occasional “nuggets” of cheesy peppery goodness. i’m not sure if this is a fault in my technique but i don’t mind as they provided a wonderful burst of pepperiness every now and then.
i served this with a salad of cherry tomatoes (they were from the isle of wight and had a proper tomato flavour – the first of the year!), basil and rocket. a perfect way to welcome the warmer weather and something i’ll be making again and again.