Cacio e pepe.
Kara, you know I don’t speak Italian. English, please.
Those were my words exactly when I first saw cacio e pepe on a menu at a cute little Italian joint on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Only I spoke them bashfully to my dinner date that night, the lovely Ellie Krieger, whom I absolutely adore and admire. Yep, Ellie, I’ve got no one but you to thank for this post’s recipe inspiration. And for teaching me a thing or two about Italian fare.
Cacio e pepe is an Italian pasta dish that means “cheese and pepper”. That’s it! The sauce is that simple – black pepper, Parmesan and Romano cheese, and some reserved pasta water. Done. Finito. Bon appetito.
Seriously though, I’m all about the simple dishes that call for just a handful of ingredients and can be made with ease and with a glass of vino in hand. This is one of those dishes. So I decided to give the ol’ cacio e pepe a makeover just in time for spring and all of its seasonal produce glory.
- 1 1/2 lbs fava bean pods, shucked
- 1 bunch fresh asparagus
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp and 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper, divided
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb whole-wheat spaghetti
- 1c reserved pasta water
- 4 tbsp butter, divided
- 1c grated Parmesan
- 2/3c grated Pecorino Romano
- 1/2c marinated artichoke hearts
- salt to taste
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil, for serving
- Freshly cut chives, for garnish
- Heat salted water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, fill a medium sized bowl with cold water and ice cubes. Once the water in the saucepan is boiling, add fava beans and blanch for 1 minute. Transfer the beans to the ice cold water and let sit for a few minutes. When fava beans have cooled completely, remove from the ice bath and peel off shells.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Break off the tough ends of the asparagus and discard. Cut spears into 1 inch pieces and transfer to a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Roast for about 10 minutes in pre-heated oven, or until tender.
- Boil a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining.
- In a large skillet, melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat and add remaining black pepper and cook for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add 1/2c pasta water and remaining butter and stir for a minute until sauce begins to thicken.
- Add cooked pasta, Pecorino and Parmesan, and stir until cheese melts. Add fava beans, asparagus, artichoke hearts and toss to combine. Add remaining pasta water as needed. Drizzle with olive oil before serving. Garnish with chives.
Veggie-filled pasta dishes are so simple to make and won’t break the bank on you. They’re super affordable and you can load them with whatever veggies are in-season. I plan to make a different version of cacio e pepe for every season. Get ready. Looking for more veggie-filled spring dishes? Check out my recipe for toasted barley salad with fava & fennel!
For more asparagus themed recipes, check out the recipes below: