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
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Tony Kim's “Cacio” e Pepe
1, but scales up well
Kosher salt, to taste
plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened
chicken stock, plus more as needed
freshly ground Sichuan pepper (or to taste), plus more for garnish**
freshly ground white pepper (or to taste), plus more for garnish**
freshly ground black pepper (or to taste), plus more for garnish**
portion fresh ramen noodles (or dry ramen noodles in a pinch)
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.
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.
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.
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.
**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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