Foods I ate and loved – Cacio e pepe edition

I just saw something on my Instagram feed that triggered a brand of fury that makes Larry David look like a reasonable, well-coiffed, beacon of tolerance. A reputable food brand (name protected for fear of further ridicule) had the audacity to call a pesto pasta cacio e pepe. I know. I nearly smashed my own iPhone screen out of pure contempt, y’all. I couldn’t understand how this misstep got past the copious caption editing that I’m sure takes place on social media and ended up in my face, mocking everything I hold near and dear.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. Pesto is delicious in its own right, but it has no business masquerading as my beloved cacio e pepe.

It’s entirely unacceptable.

I have been a seasoned consumer of cacio e pepe pasta for the better part of 10 years, so you can understand why I have a hard time letting this go. Cacio e pepe is a Roman pasta dish that is known for basic, un-effed-around-with ingredients. The name simply means “cheese and pepper,” and it’s made with Pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper and pasta. THAT’S IT.

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When done right, it’s cooked al dente, and maybe there’s a touch of butter or olive oil involved. It’s unbelievable, y’all. It’s everything that’s right with the Italian kitchen. Simple, high quality ingredients and excellent execution. I prefer it with the long thin spaghetti noodles, but I’ve also had it in rigatoni pasta, like you see above.

That’s as fancy as cacio e pepe should get. I’m going to have to insist on committing to a life as a pasta purist when it comes to this dish, because you’ll miss the point otherwise. One does not throw a pesto atop this and be like, “Check out my awesome mash-up,” because this is not Pitch Perfect. 

This is a dish Romans have been preparing since the Roman Empire (note: bold claim not backed up by evidence), not some nutty, basily concoction that’s originally from Genoa, a city whose name means “knee,” the grossest part of one’s leg.

If you ask me, pesto needs to take a knee and praise cacio e pepe, not mount the simplest of dishes with an entirely undeserved superiority.

I mean, just look at it. Amazing right?

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