We love anything cacio e pepe, the classic Italian combo of cheese and pepper that—though simple—when done well is simply sublime. A steaming bowl of cacio e pepe may not be the first thing that comes to mind as a weeknight meal option during the summer, but Michael Toscano of Le Farfalle in Charleston has a summery version on his menu we're obsessed with. A rich stock is made from corncobs before getting added to a pan with fresh kernels, spaghetti and tons of pepper and cheese. It's a summery pasta dish that's sweet and spicy and cheesy and, well, flawless.
"The corn in this case is a subtle sweetness that is a perfect addition to a classic salty, savory, piquant flavor profile of the Roman cacio e pepe," Toscano tells us. But don't feel like pasta is the only use for your summer stock: Toscano recommends swapping it with chicken stock to make a summer-friendly vegetarian risotto.
Cooking cacio e pepe is a fine dance that's all about timing according to Toscano: Don't fully cook the pasta, as it will finish in the pan with the corn stock. And don't take your eyes off the pasta once it's added to the pan; otherwise, you'll overcook your spaghetti and the sauce will get too thick. Serve the dish immediately, while it's cheesy and hot, for max satisfaction.
Sweet Corn Cacio e Pepe
Recipe adapted from Michael Toscano, Le Farfalle, Charleston, SC
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 25 minutes
For the Corn Stock:
6 medium corncobs, husked
6 cups water
5 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 thyme sprig
For the Pasta:
Kosher salt, to taste
1 pound dried spaghetti
1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
1½ cups corn stock
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
Reserved corn kernels
1½ cups grated Parmesan
½ cup grated Pecorino Romano
1. Make the corn stock: Slice off the kernels from the corncobs, reserving the kernels for later. Place the cobs in a medium saucepan with the remaining stock ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until reduced to 1½ cups, 1 hour. Strain, discarding the solids.
2. Make the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, 6 minutes, then drain.
3. Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, toast the pepper over medium heat until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the corn stock, butter and corn kernels, and bring to a simmer.
4. Add the pasta to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until the pasta is fully cooked and the sauce has reduced slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cheeses and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the cheeses have melted and the pasta is fully coated in the sauce, 1 minute more. Divide between bowls and serve immediately.