As you all know, I love mushrooms. I also love creamy food. Gimme all the butter, cream, and cheese! I also also love pasta. Cacio e pepe suddenly became the pasta du jour (along with alla matriciana, which I think is the shiznit) and I have no idea how it all started. It just started popping up in my favorite food blogs. Here’s my take on it. Eat on a chilly day when sweatpants or pjs are your OOTD or when you need super simple comfort food but also need to feel fancy. Also, don’t use whole wheat pasta like I did, unless you like the texture. Thankfully, this was the last of it.
Mushroom Cacio e Pepe [serves 4]
- spaghetti pasta (1 pound)
- 2 teaspoons of freshly cracked smoked peppercorns (or regular pepper)
- 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper (for the end of the sauce)
- 1 1/2 cup pasta water (see note in BOLD below)
- 2 cups of chopped mushrooms (See NOTES)
- 2 cups of grated pecorino cheese
- pinch of salt
- 5 tablespoons of butter, divided
Boil your pasta until al dente. This means you salt your water, boil it, then dump your pasta in. Stir a few times to keep from sticking. Take it out about 2 min before the package instructs. It will cook further when you add it to the sauce. When done, take out pasta and keep about 1 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
Cook your mushrooms: Chop into chunks. Melt a pat of butter into medium saucepan and swirl around. Add your mushrooms and sautee briefly, about 3 minutes at medium heat. Let it brown slightly in pan for another minute, do not touch. Add freshly cracked smoked peppercorn and pinch of salt. Move around with spatula.
Make the sauce: Add 3 tablespoons of butter to mushrooms. Lower heat. As butter melts, add 1/2 cup of pasta water. Stir until it begins to simmer. Add 1/2 cup of pecorino cheese. Stir quickly until it becomes a sauce.
Add remainder of cheese, and slowly add water until sauce thickens. Cheese will start sticking and melting onto your cooking spoon. Don’t worry, keep stirring. Add 2 more tablespoons of butter. When just melted, add your pasta. Using tongs, incorporate pasta and sauce. Add last tablespoon of butter and pepper. Stir. Serve immediately.
- If you like your sauce thicker, cook a little while longer. If you like your sauce silkier and more runny, add any remaining pasta water to thin it out.
- I used maitake mushrooms bec they’re meaty and hold up well to cooking. You can also use oyster or cremini. Do not use shiitake or porcini because they will change the flavor of your cheese and pepper sauce. The point is to have your mushrooms have flavor when you get a piece in your bite, but not to be the highlight flavor of your dish.
P.S. Today in history, I woke up to read the news that Brussels had been bombed twice (at the airport and the subway). WTF, world. My neighbor is from Belgium and she is devastated. 😦