Let’s take the beloved Cacio e Pepe, or other known as “cheese and pepper” pasta and make it better. This Cacio e Pepe risotto is creamy, cheesy, with a kick of pepper just like the traditional Italian dish. Before you exit this page because of the pre-notion that risotto is difficult to make, it isn’t. Like the rest of my risotto recipes, this easy approach to risotto does not require constant mixing to achieve that creamy perfectly cooked texture. In fact, this Cacio e Pepe risotto is almost as easy as the original.
Cacio e Pepe is a super traditional Italian pasta dish that consists of a few ingredients; pasta, pepper, butter, and cheese. That’s it. While this dish is incredible simple, it is also incredible easy to mess it up. Traditionally, Cacio e Pepe is made by adding butter and pasta water to a skillet, followed by pepper and cheese until the cheese has melted and the sauce comes together.
Make it correctly and you will have a creamy, cheesy, emulsified sauce that coats the noodles without the use of heavy cream or a roux. Make it incorrectly, and you are left with a clumpy mess. Lucky this Cacio e Pepe risotto is easy to make and almost impossible to mess up.
All risotto start out the same; sauté the base, toast the rice, add the liquid, and cook. Below is my easy, less intimidating approach to this creamy rice dish. While this is the process and directions always refer to the recipe card below for final instructions.
Sauté the base – Add butter to a wide pot or pan on low heat. Sauté the base, in this recipe it is garlic and shallots. Cook for 2-3 minutes until soft and fragrant, but not brown. Once soft, add in 1 tsp of the pepper and cook for another 2 minutes, allowing the spice to bloom.
Toast the risotto – Next, add the dry not washed rice to the pan and toast it for 3-5 minutes until grains start to become translucent. I can not stress enough, do not wash the rice beforehand, this will completely strip the rice of the starches it needs to make this dish super creamy.
Deglaze with wine – If adding wine (optional in some recipes, suggested in this one) deglaze the pan and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the alcohol cooks off.
Add broth– Have your broth in a sauce pan on the stove to stay warm. Next, add the broth, but not all at once! For every cup of risotto, you need approx 4- 4 1/2 cups of broth. Have extra on hand! I found with different brands of arborio rice I needed + or – a cup. Depending on your pan, this might be split into 3 or 4 rounds. My rule of thumb is to pour just enough broth to cover the risotto, when the broth starts to dip below the grains it is time to add more.
Mix, add, shake – Mix 2-3 times per broth add. If you end up mixing more, no biggie! Also give the pan a mix or a shake midway to ensure the rice isn’t sticking to the bottom.
Final adds – In the last few minutes, right before all the broth has been absorbed add more pepper and a healthy amount of Peccorino Romano cheese. To avoid clumping, grate the cheese on the small hole side of a box grater or a microplane. The smaller grate will ensure that the cheese will melt. Turn off the heat, mix to incorporate, and serve immediately.
I wish I could say that this risotto can be stored in the fridge and come back to life as if it was freshly made. Unfortunately, it won’t come back to the same creamy texture, the longer the risotto sits the more it will continue to absorb and eventually seize up. However you can store leftovers in the fridge in an airtight Tupperware for 2-3 days, and reheated in the microwave.
Can’t get enough risotto? Likewise my friend. Check out the below!