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Jul 20, 2010 10:15 PM

Pepper to use for Cacio e Pepe

I'm making cacio e pepe next week, and I plan to buy some peppercorns this week at an Indian spice shop that sells many varieties of peppercorn. What would be the best peppercorn to use? Should I try Tellicherry, Malabar, or maybe the red or green peppercorns?

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  1. For this Roman dish I prefer Tellicherry peppercorns. It has a more robust flavor than the others you're considering, and since that's one of three flavoring ingredients it should stand out. Make sure you use the best Pecorino Romano you can find. Parmigiano just doesn't belong in this dish...

    1. Traditionally it's black pepper, not red or green, and the variety is up to the chef, as long as it's freshly ground and in copious quantity. Malabar and Tellicherry peppercorns are from the same region of Inda, Tellicherry being the higher grade grown on the Malabar plants on Mount Tellicherry. However, Malabar has a slightly higher piperine (the alkaloid responsible for pungency in peppercorns) content, so they'll be just a bit spicier than Tellicherry. Malabar vs. Tellicherry, what you use is your call. I've never seen a Cacio e Pepe recipe specify peppercorn variety; what's important is that the peppercorns are fresh and freshly ground (coarsely cracked is the term I use to describe the grind). Excellent Romano is very important, also!

      2 Replies
      1. re: bushwickgirl

        I read someplace that poorer Italians used to save the pepper corns from salami to use in special peppery dishes like this or peposo (beef shanks cooked red wine and black pepper).

      2. mmmmmm, my son gave us a pasta maker for xmas and lessons on fresh pasta in which the simple and delish recipe of cacio e pepe was used to highlight the pasta. Sooooo fantastic,

        1. By odd coincidence, I just made this dish for the first time tonight! It was terrific--really demonstrating the truism that great Italian food is often just very simple, good ingredients and basic technique.

          As for pepper, I used my regular stuff (Telicherry). I would not look for anything far from that (like red, green, etc.), but I imagine that any fresh ground black pepper should work well.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Bada Bing

            I just tried it myself. I think the mountain on which the pepper was grown is a minor issue. The tricky part is getting the right amount of pepper, enough to be a major flavor, but not too much for your taste. The pepper in this dish had a significant after taste. So a simple taste while mixing may not be enough to judge its full effect.

          2. We use the very common black pepper, freshly ground.
            Anyway I congratulate you. I am a roman doc and have never managed to cook a good Cacio e Pepe.
            The most delicious dishes of Italian cuisine are simple and have few natural ingredients but are extremely difficult to prepare.