Cacio e pepe


I have been struggling the last few days to determine the best way to convey to you the beautiful yet complex deliciousness of a simple Italian dish with four ingredients. It’s called cacio e pepe which literally means “cheese and pepper.”

And then I got irritated today when I looked at the menus of two chain restaurants about to open in Brentwood and the complete absence of any even remotely interesting dish. Cacio e pepe, a beloved dish in Rome, would never even be under consideration.

I fear I am becoming a zealot or a grumpy old woman about the sad state of most restaurants in this country and by that I mean chains. One of these new chains coming to Brentwood is Mexican themed, which is to say it is about as authentic to Mexican cooking as vinyl siding going up on a perfectly good and authentically wood house.

I know what a really good taco is and at places like Don Juan Carniceria on Nolensville Road it has only four ingredients: a corn tortilla, meat of choice (go for the chorizo), cilantro and white onion. Five if you count the squeeze of lime. Granted you will trade a overly decorated noisy dining room for a corrugated shed smelling faintly of lemon cleaner. But you’ll be eating a taco as God intended it to be made.

I feel the same about cacio e pepe. The closest thing to it in a chain restaurant is Fettuccine Alfredo, an abomination if there ever was one. It’s right up there with “Caesar dressing” and hollandaise out of a packet. Hollandaise. Three ingredients: lemon juice, egg yolks and butter. Maybe a dash of cayenne if you’re feeling naughty. If you’ve ever had real hollandaise you can tell the fake stuff a mile away. And Bad Mommy, I’ve eaten a lot of homemade hollandaise.

So I am handing you the real deal on cacio e pepe. It’s courtesy of Bon Appetit magazine. I have made it three times in the last week and a half and it even inspired me to go back to making my own pasta. It’s that good.


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