Never tried it grilled cheese and pepper? Cacio e pepe is a classic of Italian cuisine, and its difficulty lies in perfectly mixing the cheese with the pasta at the end of cooking. Not in the kitchen Andreinathe 1 Michelin star restaurant of Errico Recanatito Loretto. In MarcheIn fact, in the shadow of the dome of the famous sanctuary, the cacio e pepe is (literally) cooked on live embers. And the result is like a haute cuisine manual.
The ingredients are the usual ones, pasta, cheese, pepper, plus the chef’s favorite: smoke. The Cacio e 7 pepi of the Andreina restaurant – as it is called on the menu – is in fact the perfect synthesis between great Italian tradition, archaic techniques, gastronomic research and exotic ingredients. If the cheese is Fossa cheese or Parmigiano Reggiano, the pasta is a very local Benedetto Cavalieri made from Senatore Cappelli wheat, the peppers are only the result of a meticulous selection between China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal and Vietnam. It would be a great cacio e pepe, with the grill it becomes unique.
If the smoky taste and the tendency to “return to the fire” crosses international cuisine far and wide, here it has been in the DNA for more than 60 years, since Andreina roasted piglet in the same fireplace that her nephew now uses. The smoking does not come from the sauce, from the use of bacon or bacon, from spectacular smoking under a cloche at the time of service or from some creative trick. Here they cook everything on the grill. Pasta too.
Grilled cheese and pepper: cooking in 4 phases
Cooking takes place in four phases: classic, in salted water, on the grill and in a pan. «The pasta is a Benedetto Cavalieri spaghettone that cooks for 18 minutes, the only pasta that cooks this well, he tells me. «It boils for 4 minutes in water, then is immersed for 6 minutes in water at 60°: if we used cold water it would lose all the starch. Afterwards we chill it again to definitively stop the cooking. Then we dry it on tea towels. You need 200 or 210 grams per portion to serve 150 or 120 at the end of the process.” When triple-cooked, many spaghetti break or are over-grilled and are therefore set aside.
«If you are wondering how it is possible to create a grilled pastaknow that Errico Recanati uses small grills of various thicknesses to be placed over the classic grill, on which it is also possible to cook wild herbs: given the dense mesh of the grid everything cooks evenly without ever falling, which would impossible by cooking directly on the classic grill”, writes Allan Bay in the preface of the book Cook on the grill by Errico Recanati (Italian Gourmet editions).
The hat that conveys the fumes
The pasta is cooked for 9 minutes on live coals, under a hat: a special tool invented by Errico Recanati and self-built with cooking trays and lid handles. The hat retains the sweet smoke of its special charcoal composed of seven aromatic but non-invasive woods from the Apennines. At that moment, stirred on the stove with cooking water, cheese, butter and seven peppers. «A single pepper would block the flavor of the embers, but these peppers are aromatic, they extend the flavor of the embers without covering it. And the result is exactly that. A pasta that is still perfectly calloused, al dente, crunchy in some places, which smells of smoke and has the flavor of smoke, not burnt, which lasts in the mouth thanks to the aromatic and non-spicy action of the pepper. «We ate overcooked pasta for months, he tells me, and since 2017 it has never left the menu.
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