Recipe: Cacio e pepe


Cacio e pepe, this heavenly dish consisting only of pasta, pecorino and black pepper (and a little cooking water from the pasta) has always seemed so daunting to make. I have enjoyed it cooked to perfection in Rome (it’s a Roman dish) but I never thought I could recreate it at home. But then I read Felicity Cloake’s article about the perfect cacio e pepe and decided to have a go as she made it seem so easy. And it turns out, with her guidance, it actually was!

The receipt is perfect. I didn’t change a thing and it worked perfectly the first time. If you’re a cacio e pepe novice like I was I highly recommend reading the article beforehand just to understand the elements of the dish better. And I can’t stress enough how important the quality of the ingredients are; buy some good dried pasta (I love de Cecco) and some really nice pecorino ( I got mine from Natoora) and your finished dish will be just as nice as the one you had in Rome on your holiday.


Cacio e pepe, serves 2

Adapted from Felicity Cloake’s recipe.

2 tsp black peppercorns

200 g spaghetti 

80 g pecorino romano, at room temperature, finely grated 

Toast the peppercorns in a very hot, dry pan then roughly crush with a pestle and mortar.

Bring a wide shallow pan of well-salted water to the boil, then add the pasta; it should be covered but not by much. Stir occasionally during cooking and, five minutes into the cooking time, scoop out 250 ml water into a wide bowl to allow it to cool slightly.

Drain the pasta and leave it to cool for a minute. Meanwhile, put the cheese and most of the pepper in a large, heavy bowl or pan and beat in some of the pasta water very gradually to make first a paste, and then a sauce the consistency of bechamel. Add the pasta and toss furiously while adding enough of the water to make a sauce that coats each strand of spaghetti.

Divide between warm bowls, sprinkle over a little more pepper, and serve immediately.


Another lunch in Rome


My last day (of two) in Rome started with hardcore sightseeing of The Colosseum and Foro Romano, and I also had time to visit Crypta Balbi before my lunch reservation at Ditirambo near Campo de Fiori.

I don’t know how I heard about the restaurant, but it seemed like one of the better restaurants in the area I knew I’d be in for lunch, so I booked a table. And I’m glad I did; it was just as full for lunch as Armando al Pantheon (even though the restaurant had twice the amount of tables).


I chose a trio of starters as I couldn’t make my mind up on what to have, but two of the dishes were rather disappointing. The ricotta filled deep-fried courgette flower was rather soggy and didn’t taste of much and the steak tartar with truffle was also under-seasoned. The slices of smoked duck with melon and nuts was wonderful though. I wished I got a larger plate of that.


I inly had the starter and a pasta as I’d had so much (too much!) to eat the previous day. I actually asked for a half portion of cacio e pepe, a wonderful Roman pasta dish with pecorino and black pepper. And it was absolutely gorgeous! A glass of wine with my meal and an espresso afterwards and I was ready to take on my last afternoon in Rome.

Ditirambo, Piazza della Cancelleria, 74-75, 00186 Roma, Italy

Fine dining in Trastevere, Rome


I’m not the type of person who counts Michelin stars but I do think the Michelin guide is a good guide to use and I often check out restaurants mentioned in it when I’m going travelling, especially when I want to go to a more up-scale restaurant. I did my research before Rome as well and the Michelin star restaurant I was most excited to try, Glass, was fully booked the one night I had in the city. Luckily my next choice,  Antico Arco in Trastevere had availability.

Despite having dinner here on my own on a Saturday night, I had a fabulous meal and really enjoyed the food, the ambiance and the service. I actually think I got the most attention from the staff, checking I was enjoying myself as often as they could.

My lovely meal started with an amuse bouche (pictured above) of crispy mackerel, courgette and a very light orange sauce. So delicious!


My choice of starter was a porcini mushroom mousse with yoghurt, poached egg yolk and blac truffle. So very good!


Next up was a pasta dish; ravioli with sea bass with a seafood bisque. The pasta itself was amazingly thin and delicious, the bisque nice and pungent and the seabass nice and soft, but it wasn’t really what I had expected texture wise.


For my maincourse I was choosing between three meat dishes and since one of the waiters recommended the steak tartare I went for that. It was the most decadent steak tartare I’ve ever seen; a ginormous portion of perfectly seasoned raw steak, topped with raw porcini mushrooms, black truffle and generous shavings of foie gras. It was delicious and very rich, and having had two courses already there was no way I would get close to even finish it.


I was so full after my lovely meal I declined pudding (no room) but the waiters still brough me a mini dessert of decaf tiramisu. It was heavenly but I couldn’t even finish that tiny portion. Instead I had a tea and a breather, and looking around the fellow guests I was wondering how they manage to finish their portions. I mean, to me, Roman portions were American sized.


Turns out they order differently to me. A couple near me had several mini plates of soup and pasta before having a main course each. I guess I’m too polite to even consider asking for tasting portions in a nice restaurant, but the next day I did so at lunch. And it turns out even a half portion of pasta is large, but at least I could finish it!

Antico Arco, Piazzale Aurelio, 7, 00152 Roma, Italy

Wonderful lunch in Rome (Armando al Pantheon)


Book! That’s my best tips for visiting Rome. Book everything you possibly can beforehand; taxi from the airport, tickets to all the sights and tables at sought after restaurants.

During my lunch at Armando al Pantheon, which is a small and cosy restaurant, I saw the maitre d’ send away at least ten people that hadn’t booked as not a single table was available for walk-ins. So I was extra pleased I had made a reservation (you can do it online so no hassle at all) because this was a restaurant I certainly didn’t want to miss.

I took the old adage When in Rome seriously and had antipasti, primi and secondi. And wine. Oh, what a lunch!


I started with bruschetta; one with lardo and walnut (nice!) and one with quail’s egg and truffle (wow!).


I then had the spaghetti alla carbonara (a typical roman pasta just like cacio de pepe), and Armando’s version was lovely. Not too creamy but with plenty of flavour and nice pieces of pancetta this was exactly what I thought proper Italian pasta was about. Only downside was the size of the portion – if I had finished it I wouldn’t have been able to eat anything else, so I ate about half and saved myself for the next dish.


It was one of the specials that I thought I might try if I could finish the pasta, but when the waiter told the table next to me about the specials I just could not not order the slow cooked veal with truffle. Although really full after the pasta, I almost felt less full after having had just meat, jus and truffle. The meat was very tender and the jus nice and light but with nice flavours.


Armando’s is, as you can see, small and cosy. So cosy I made friends with the people at the next table (we sat very close) who loved the place so much they’d come back six times during their two weeks in Rome. Armando al Pantheon, Salita dè Crescenzi, 31, 00186 Roma, Italy

A Roman holiday


A few weekends ago I went to Rome for the first time and loved every second of it (apart from almost not finding a taxi late at night in the rain when I arrived, but I got there in the end).

Arriving to the hotel I went straight to bed and feel asleep to raindrops hitting the courtyard outside my room. Very soothing. Waking up to a beautiful day I had breakfast at the hotel (just before they stop serving it, that’s usually how I roll) and then walked along the Tiber to my first stop of the day; the frescos by Raphael and his contemporaries at Villa Farnesina. They were just amazing and a great start to my day.


I then crossed the Tiber to go back into the centre of Rome, via the little market on Campo de Fiori, that turned out to be a lot more touristy than expected, but the greengrocers still carried magnificent produce and I so wanted to buy large fresh porcini mushrooms and courgette flowers but as I didn’t have time to go back to the hotel before continuing my day I thought I could make my purchases the next day. Unfortunately I couldn’t, as all the best greengrocers seem to take Sundays off.

I then made a quick stop at the Pantheon as my lunch reservation was nearby.


After a fab lunch (review to follow) I walked back across the Tiber to visit the Vatican museum, where I had bought my ticket in advance, which I recommend anyone visiting Rome to do too. There is so much to see in the eternal city, queueing just feels like a waste of time.


Apart from the fact that you sometimes felt like a sheep ushered by a shepherd, I enjoyed the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel a lot.


Some things were pretty spectacular, like the exit (above).


Walking past St Peter’s Basilica I decided to join the (massive queue) and at least see if it was moving. Luckily it was, and as it’s free to go in you can’t book in advance. And it certainly was magnificent and absolutely worth a bit of a wait. The time didn’t feel wasted at all as I got to see the sun setting over the basilica and could take some nice photos in the twilight.


After a walk back to the hotel my feet were pretty sore (I walked 25 kilometres that day) and I decided to take a taxi to Antico Arco (review to follow) where I was having dinner.


The next day after breakfast I went to the Colosseum, again with a pre-booked ticket, and although heaving with people it was a lovely sight so see.


Afterwards I went to Foro Romano nearby, using the same ticket, and it was as wonderful to see.


Next on the list was Crypta Balbi and then lunch.


My last stop was Crypta dei cappuccini, a crypt for the Capuchin monks decorate with skulls and skeleton parts. It sounds macabre but I didn’t think it was; just very different and beautiful in a strange way.

Then it was time to go back to the hotel and pick up my bags and head to the airport. What a wonderful weekend.

PS. Sorry for the heading; couldn’t help myself.