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Comfort Pasta Dish Cacio e Pepe Is “A Thing of Love”

Animale’s executive chef brings us a dish from Rome, with amore.

Photo: Jeff Marini

“It’s a thing of love and so simple,” says Cameron Grant of the timeless Roman pasta dish known as cacio e pepe (literally, “cheese and pepper”). But Grant, the executive chef of the Italian spot Animale in Logan Square, cautions that, elemental as it is, the preparation requires finesse: “You’ve got to emulsify the sauce by whisking in bits of cold butter.” Lots of cheese takes the dish deep into the comfort zone.

Cameron Grant’s Cacio e Pepe

Serves:2
Total Time:30 minutes

1½ cups Chicken stock
  Salt
  Cracked black pepper
8 oz. Dry spaghetti
¾ Stick butter, chilled and cut into pats
2 Tbsp. Grated grana padano
4 Tbsp. Grated Pecorino Romano

1. Add 1 cup of the stock, a pinch of salt, and two large pinches of pepper to a medium sauté pan; bring to a boil. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta in heavily salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta water.

2. Add butter to stock. Whisk constantly until the butter melts and the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 2 minutes).

3. Add the grana padano and cooked pasta to the sauce; toss to combine. Add remaining stock and half of the Pecorino Romano. Toss until the sauce fully coats the pasta with a nice sheen. If it seems dry, add up to 1/3 cup reserved pasta water. Salt and pepper to taste.

4. Divide pasta between two bowls. Top with remaining Pecorino Romano and another large pinch of pepper.

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