- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 20 minutes
- Serves 2 to 3
In traditional cacio e pepe, the pasta (usually a thicker type of spaghetti) is boiled and its starchy cooking water helps to create the "paste" that eventually becomes an emulsified Pecorino Romano cheese sauce. The coarsely cracked black pepper is also toasted in a pan for a bit to release its fragrance. These two techniques are borrowed in this mushroom-heavy spin-off, which includes decidedly non-traditional butter and short pasta.
Salted butter—specifically Vermont Creamery’s Cultured Butter with Sea Salt, which is at both times creamier and slightly richer than regular salted butter—is used in this recipe. The nuttiness of the butter works particularly well with the earthiness of the mushrooms. As any mushroom lover knows, you get to develop an eye for cooking funghi. When sauteeing mushrooms in a pan, don't be alarmed by the amount of water that gets released. Oftentimes, salt is used to season mushrooms after this stage; the use of salted butter from the start not only helps to draw this moisture out from the beginning, but it also helps season the mushrooms thoroughly before they begin getting browned along the edges.
I cannot overstate the importance of the starchy pasta cooking water in this recipe. Be sure to scoop out at least 1 1/2 cups; you'll likely not use it all, but you'll use most. The hot water not only gives the sauce its glossy sheen, but it will also help as added insurance against a clumpy cheese mixture in the middle of your pasta. —Hana Asbrink
Test Kitchen Notes
short pasta, like campanelle
1 1/2 teaspoons
freshly and coarsely cracked black pepper, plus more for garnish
extra-virgin olive oil
Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter With Sea Salt, divided and cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed (if dry), caps and stems thinly sliced about 1/4-inch (if the mushrooms are small, slice caps and stems together)
grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 cups
reserved pasta water, divided (there were will be some left over)
Kosher salt, optional and to taste
- Bring a medium pot filled with salted water to boil for the pasta. Cook pasta 1 minute shy of al dente, according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups of pasta water.
- Meanwhile, prepare the mushrooms: Add the freshly and coarsely ground black pepper to a large, cold skillet. Turn heat to medium-low and toast until fragrant, about 30 to 60 seconds.
- Raise to medium-high heat, and add extra-virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons salted butter. When butter foams, add the mushrooms. Thoroughly toss to coat. Arrange the mushrooms in a single layer at the bottom of the pan (as much as you can). Cook, stirring occasionally and making sure to lift up any black pepper bits from the bottom of the pan. Liquid will be released from the mushrooms during the cooking process; don't be alarmed. Cook mushrooms for a total of about 8 to 10 minutes, until they start to get browned and most liquid has evaporated. If the pasta is still cooking, remove the skillet from the heat and set aside until pasta is done.
- While the mushrooms cook, prepare the cheese "paste": In a small mixing bowl, add the Pecorino cheese and 3 to 4 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. Mix to form a loose paste. Set aside.
- Return the skillet to medium-low heat. Add the almost-al dente pasta, 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water, and the remaining tablespoon of salted butter. Cook and toss to combine with the mushrooms, being sure to scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat off. Add the cheese paste and another 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Stir well until pasta is well-coated and glossy, and absorbs most of the liquid. If the bottom of the pan looks dry, add more reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Taste and season with a pinch of kosher salt, if needed.
- Plate and top with additional coarse black pepper and grated Pecorino, if you'd like. Serve immediately.