Tony Kim's “Cacio” e Pepe

October 31, 2018


Author Notes: Traditional cacio e pepe relies on practice and patience, and vigorous tossing—a technique well worth mastering, but maybe not tonight—to make a smooth sauce. Dry, grated cheese and starchy pasta water don’t inherently gravitate toward one another—the wrong heat, timing, moisture, or position of Mercury can send the sauce into dry and clumpy misalignment. But, as chef Tony Kim has discovered, a swirl of miso, butter, and chicken stock do no such thing—they love melding together. “The emulsification process pretty much happens on its own,” Kim wrote when he published this recipe in Lucky Peach in 2016. They also happen to make an incredibly delicious, noodle-coating sauce that does a very fine impression of a creamy, cheese-based one. And there’s a good chance they’re all waiting for you in your kitchen now. Adapted from Momofuku Noodle Bar Executive Chef Tony Kim, via Lucky Peach magazine (February, 2016).Genius Recipes

Serves: 1, but scales up well
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 5 min

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons white miso
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Sichuan pepper (or to taste), plus more for garnish**
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (or to taste), plus more for garnish**
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or to taste), plus more for garnish**
  • 1 portion fresh ramen noodles (or dry ramen noodles in a pinch)
In This Recipe

Directions

  1. Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mash together the butter and miso with a fork until smooth.
  2. Melt the miso butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chicken stock, Sichuan pepper, white pepper, and black pepper, and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the noodles into the boiling pot of water and cook until they are relaxed but still firmer than al dente, since they’ll continue cooking in the sauce, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Using chopsticks or tongs, lift the noodles out of the water and into the miso butter sauce. Stir and toss the noodles in the sauce until the noodles are cooked through and the sauce is thickened, about 1–2 more minutes, adding a little bit more chicken stock if the sauce gets too thick. The noodles should be lightly coated in a buttery, peppery sheen. Taste, add a pinch of salt if needed, toss one more time, and heap onto a plate. Sprinkle lightly with each of the peppers, and serve immediately.
  5. **Tony Kim's original recipe called for a teaspoon of each type of pepper, which I wimpily scaled back—because I know some of you will be as wimpy as me (though the Roman chef Marco Baccanelli does describe traditional cacio e pepe as "violent," so a tablespoon of pepper isn't out of place). Adjust the pepper amounts to your taste.

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Reviews (13) Questions (0)

13 Reviews

Sandra E. November 5, 2018
I don't think it tastes remotely like cheese, but it's not bad, and it's extremely easy to make. <br /><br />Don't be afraid to alter the amounts of any ingredient to suit your personal tastes--I've never tripped across a more forgiving recipe.
 
Kristen M. November 7, 2018
Thanks for your notes, Sandra—great points.
 
Petite F. November 3, 2018
I thought I had a weird taste adding soy sauce, parmesan, olive oil and fresh ground pepper to my pasta for years. I must try this!
 
Kristen M. November 7, 2018
That sounds DELICIOUS to me.
 
Sara J. November 2, 2018
I just made this with dashi stock instead of chicken stock, and used spaghetti noodles, not ramen. Topped it with a poached egg and shredded nori. I wouldn't say it was "cacio e pepe," but it was delicious! One thought, though- I always thought boiling miso killed its umami. Next time I think I will just stir it in at the end and see if it makes a difference in flavor, and will hopefully keep the same creaminess.
 
Kristen M. November 7, 2018
I've heard that boiling miso kills the good bacteria that come from fermentation, but I don't think that the brief simmer that happens here really affects the flavor—it still tastes good and miso-y to me. If you wanted to preserve it even better, you could try reducing the chicken broth a bit first before melting in the miso butter.
 
Liane November 2, 2018
I really wanted to like this -- putting the name aside -- but it was meh for me. It tasted like saucy miso on noodles. After following the recipe and tasting, I upped all the peppers -- definitely too toned down for me. I thought it not texturally appealing -- too smooth to be interesting. Cacio e pepe has a certain chewiness/density added by the cheese that miso and butter can't replicate. I wonder if simply mashing or whizzing butter, miso, pepper and some cold water might provide a more pleasing texture than the boiling technique. <br /><br />Otherwise, I'll stick to real cacio e pepe and noodles in chili oil. I do like the miso, butter combination on baked fish -- with the addition of bread crumbs.
 
Kristen M. November 7, 2018
Thanks for reporting back, Liane. In case it's helpful, I think the keys to this, for me, are making sure the water is very well-salted (till it tastes like seawater) to cook the noodles, keeping the noodles chewy, and reducing the sauce till it thickens and clings to the noodles, and isn't too brothy. If the noodles are bland or too-soft or the sauce doesn't cling, I get bored quickly.
 
Kaitlin P. October 31, 2018
Really tasty! It really does taste like a cheesy dish. <br />I used normal spaghetti instead of ramen and red instead of white miso. Can't imagine sichuan peppercorn out of a Chinese food context so just used black pepper. Also garnished with sautéed shitake mushrooms.
 
Kristen M. November 7, 2018
I dig your tweaks!
 
Fiona B. October 31, 2018
Do you have a suggestion for gluten-free noodles that would work with this recipe? It sounds great!
 
witloof November 1, 2018
I love Explore Asian brand Edamame Mung Bean Fettuccine and it works well in every pasta dish I try with it.
 
Kristen M. November 7, 2018
Thank you, witloof!<br />