Who doesn’t love macaroni and cheese? I certainly do, and this spin on a classic will leave a smile on your face and your belly feeling full. This is a wonderful easy recipe that will make everyone at the table happy. Perfect for an easy weeknight meal or for entertaining, this cacio e pepe recipe will become one of your favorites – it’s definitely our favorite for chilly, foggy Santa Cruz evenings.
• black pepper (or 1 tablespoon peppercorns, depending on how you want your pepper)
• 1 pound cavatappi or pasta of choice
• 1 teaspoon olive oil
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 3 cups milk
• 1 cup shredded mozzarella
• 3 ounces Parmesan-Reggiano, finely grated
If you want to roast your peppercorns, set a small skillet over medium heat. Add your peppercorns and toast for 3-4 minutes. Then, put them in a mortar and pestle and grind them until they are crushed. If you are like me, and don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can also place the toasted peppercorns on a cutting board and crush them with the side of a large chef’s knife. Set aside. Side note: Sometimes I skip this step altogether, and simply add pepper from our pepper grinder at the end. Still delicious and makes the recipe even easier.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil; when boiling, add Cavatappi/Cellentani or pasta of your choice and cook to al dente. Reserve about a cup to a cup and a half of the pasta water, then drain the rest. Add olive oil to the drained pasta to prevent it from sticking together. Using the same pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, cooking for 1-2 minutes before pouring in milk. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3-5 minutes, until thickened (it should coat the spoon). Turn off the heat and let sit for 2 minutes.
Add the mozzarella and parmigiano-reggiano as well as some generous pinches of black pepper. If the cheese won’t mix in, turn the heat on to medium-low and let melt. Add salt to taste, then add in pasta. Mix in some more black pepper and toss in evenly until coated. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of pasta water, to provide a creamier texture – start with 1/4 cup to see how creamy it is and add more as you wish.
Serve garnished with a generous pinch of black pepper, and enjoy! Delicious!
Recipe adapted from A Cozy Kitchen! Check her out if you haven’t already, she is amazing!
As I said, this is a wonderful dish to share with friends and on nights when you just want something easy and cozy. I hope you enjoy!