Quick and Easy

Tony Kim's “Cacio” e Pepe

October 31, 2018
11 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
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

Watch This Recipe
Tony Kim's “Cacio” e Pepe
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 5 minutes
  • Serves 1, but scales up well
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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

    19 Reviews

    kerii August 14, 2020
    This is good and you can adapt it however. If you’re lazy, you can substitute the chicken broth for noodle water.
     
    Max W. July 18, 2020
    Such a good dish. The first time I made it I stuck religiously to the recipe. The butter and miso caught a bit and darkened but still tasted great. It catches very easily. Sorry haven’t seen video it might say that there

    I now make it with a flavourless oil (same amount as butter) and I put the miso straight into a pan with the heated oil. I let it cook very slowly so it takes a few mins longer. I sort of pat it down with the back of a spatula/egg flip/thingy you flip things with. And then kinda flip it every now and again. Miso does catch really easily but again it’s fairly forgiving if it does

    This is just a cholesterol thing for me, oil instead of butter, loses some complexity of flavour but still works very well. When you add the stock the miso takes a bit of time to completely incorporate, but it happens. I top with a fried egg and scallions and also a generous sprinkle of msg. I don’t salt the water before cooking the ramen cos of this

    With the Szechuan pepper corns, you should dry roast them before you grind them, otherwise they’re a little bit... gritty. This sounds weird but the grittyness isn’t unpleasant to me but it might be down to personal taste

     
    deepa A. April 29, 2019
    This dish was delicious. I agree with some of the other comments that it isn't cacio e pepe, but it was amazing nonetheless. I made it gluten free and vegan, so I subbed vegan butter, rice ramen noodles, and vegetable broth. I put in the exact amount of peppercorns called for in this recipe, but next time I may up the peppers slightly. I watched the video, which helped get the consistency right. The best part is that the recipe took 15 minutes to make. It is a great easy weeknight dinner paired with some veggies.
     
    Gabriel J. January 16, 2019
    anyone have tips on "sweet" v "mild" white miso for this?
     
    Stottey December 15, 2018
    Just made this, but with the original amount of pepper - violent is an apt description! I couldn't actually finish the serving it was so fiery. I did really enjoy it though, and although it doesn't taste like cheese, the white pepper plays mind games with your taste buds. It makes me expect cheese sauce
     
    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.

    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.

    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.
    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!
     
    Fiona B. April 29, 2019
    Thanks for the suggestion!