Wild Thistle Kitchen: Creamy Bucatini Cacio e Pepe


This creamy bucatini recipe is quick to make, requires a handful of ingredients and is so savory and delicious. It is very much like a bucatini cacio e pepe (but in an effort to avoid the Cacio e Pepe Police, I will not make any claims that this is an authentic cacio e pepe). Yes, it has cheese and pepper, but I’ve also added some other flavors.

I’m thrilled to be teaming up with Honest Cooking on this Icons of European Taste campaign to bring you this recipe featuring two truly iconic products that are always in my kitchen: Grana Padano Cheese and Prosciutto di Parma. I mean, in the food world, it just doesn’t get more iconic than these two — truly no competition and no comparison to anything else.

I chose to highlight both of these icons in this creamy bucatini cacio e pepe recipe with a few supporting flavors that don’t overshadow them: sage, garlic and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. That’s it. The best food is the simplest.

Let’s learn about the iconic products featured in this creamy bucatini recipe.

These products are special for so many reasons. They are truly one-of-a-kind in taste, texture and quality, but also in that they are each only produced in specific regions of Italy.

Grana Padano cheese has been produced in the Po River plain since the Middle Ages. Wrap your head around that! And Prosciutto di Parma can only come from Parma and can only be made with Italian pork legs.

Each of these products are protected by the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) system which you will see in the stamps on the rind of Grana Padano cheese, as well as on the exterior of each leg of Parma ham. This means that no other cheeses or hams can claim to be authentic Grana Padano or Prosciutto di Parma.

You can learn more here:

History of Prosciutto di Parma

History of Grana Padano

Now, lets’ talk about this pasta.

What is bucatini? Bucatini is a classic, very popular pasta shape. It is similar to spaghetti in shape and length, but it is much thicker and has a small hole in the center. It’s really fun to make and eat — a little messy but totally worth it. In fact, it is known as “sporca camicie” in some regions of Italy, which literally translates to “dirty shirts”! I love that little foodie fact; I heard it on a travel show many years ago and I’ve never forgotten.

Photo by Anita Parris Soule. Courtesy Wild Thistle Kitchen.

Cooking it to al dente or “to the tooth” is key, as with all pasta recipes, but especially here, because we will finish cooking it in the pan with pasta water and lots of Grana Padano cheese. So I even take it out a couple minutes prior to being al dente to ensure I have that toothsome bite in the finished dish.

Cacio = cheese and pepe = pepper. I am riffing on the classic here and using copious amounts of Grana Padano, as well as adding a few supporting flavors. The flavors in this creamy bucatini recipe echo one of my favorite dishes: veal or chicken saltimbocca. The prosciutto and sage pair beautifully with the cheese and create such a harmonious dish.

I encourage you to hunt down Grana Padano and Prosciutto di Parma and use them in your kitchen. If you are making this recipe, before you start, make sure to put out some rough chunks of Grana Padano and some silky ribbons of Prosciutto di Parma to nibble on as you’re cooking. Pour some crisp Italian white wine and savor the taste — really enjoy the cooking process!

Tips on making this creamy bucatini cacio e pepe …

As I wrote above, cooking your pasta a few minutes prior to al dente is key. And saving a good amount of the starchy pasta water is a must. I like to choose a large enough sauté pan that I know will accommodate the cooked pasta (less dishes to wash). I start by adding a couple tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and adding the prosciutto in a single layer. Let it crisp slowly.

Remove the crisped prosciutto to a cutting board and add the garlic and sage to the pan with another two tablespoons of olive oil. Let them sizzle gently until the garlic is a very light golden and the sage has become crispy. Transfer them to the same cutting board. Now add your pepper to the pan and turn the heat to low while your pasta cooks.

This is the point I get the pasta cooking. Make sure you have a large pot of boiling water and salt it well. Add your pasta and set a timer for a couple minutes less than the box says.

When the pasta is done, scoop out a couple cups of the water. Then drain your pasta or use tongs to scoop it into the pan with the oil and pepper.

Add a handful of cheese and a splash of cooking water and toss to combine. When it looks creamy, repeat with more cheese and more water. Continue this process until all the cheese has been added and the pasta is very creamy. Add more pasta water as needed.

Now add the chopped prosciutto, sage and garlic (if using). Toss to combine and serve immediately with plenty of extra Grana Padano.

I hope you’ll give this recipe a try! Let me know if you do. I always love seeing my recipes in your kitchens.

xo — Anita

Photo by Anita Parris Soule. Courtesy Wild Thistle Kitchen.

Creamy Bucatini Cacio e Pepe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

1 lb. dried bucatini pasta

5 thin slices of Prosciutto di Parma

4 oz. Grana Padano Cheese, grated (about 2 cups)

6 fresh sage leaves

2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup kosher salt or sea salt for pasta water

Instructions

Set a large pot of water on to boil over high heat. In a large sauté pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the prosciutto in a single layer. Let it crisp slowly over medium low heat.

Remove the crisped prosciutto to a cutting board and add the garlic and sage to the pan with another 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Let them sizzle gently until the garlic is a very light golden and the sage has become crispy. Transfer them to the same cutting board as the prosciutto. Now add your pepper to the pan and turn the heat to low while your pasta cooks.

Once water comes to a full, rolling boil, add lots of salt — I usually add about ¼ cup of kosher or sea salt. Add your pasta and set a timer for a couple minutes less than the box says.

When the pasta is done, scoop out a couple cups of the water and set aside. Then drain your pasta in a colander or use tongs to scoop it into the pan with the oil and pepper.

Keep the pan over low heat and add a handful of cheese and a splash of cooking water and toss and stir to combine (I like to use tongs for this). When it looks creamy, repeat with more cheese and more water. Continue this process until all the cheese has been added and the pasta is very creamy. Add more pasta water as needed.

Now add the chopped prosciutto, sage and garlic (if using). Toss to combine and serve immediately with plenty of extra Grana Padano.

Notes

  • This really should be eaten immediately, but life happens. If your pasta sits and cools before serving, just reheat it gently over low heat with a bit more pasta water. If you don’t have pasta water left, use tap water. And if you have leftovers, reheat them in this same manner. I do NOT recommend the microwave for reheating this.
  • The garlic will flavor the oil. I like to chop the cooked garlic and add it to the finished dish, but this is optional.

Photo by Anita Parris Soule. Courtesy Wild Thistle Kitchen.

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