The Cacio e Pepe Twist That Changes the Whole Game

There is nothing more classic than cacio e pepe - but can even this perfect combination of spaghetti, cheese and fresh pepper be improved upon?

Raquel Pelzel makes a pretty excellent case in her new book Umami Bomb. The book is all about utilizing umami, that famed extra category of flavor that brings a savory richness to any food, to make vegetarian food even more satisfying. Two of the ingredients she highlights are miso paste and nutritional yeast, and they are used in great effect in this recipe. It’s hard to imagine deepening the flavors of the original, but this take on cacio e pepe just bumps everything up a notch for an unforgettable version.

So watch the video below or make the recipe, and pick up Raquel’s book if you want a whole lot more flavor in your life.

Miso Cacio e Pepe

If you are a cacio e pepe traditionalist, then skip this recipe. Otherwise, here is a really tasty version! The miso paste and nutritional yeast used here give the pasta an extra savory note. Parsley isn’t a classic addition (then again neither is miso or nutritional yeast), but I like a touch of green.

Serves 4

1 pound dried spaghetti
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white miso paste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¹⁄3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the spaghetti and 1 tablespoon of salt and cook, following the package instructions, until the spaghetti is just a little shy of al dente (when you bite into a strand, it still tastes like it needs 1 or 2 minutes more to cook). Drain the spaghetti, reserving 3/4 cup of the pasta water. Dry out the pot.

Heat the oil in the pasta pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the 3/4 cup of pasta water, reduce the heat to low, and add the miso paste. Stir until the sauce is creamy (don’t let it boil), then add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
Add the butter to the pan and, once it’s melted, add the pasta and cook, shaking the pan often and stirring the pasta, until it is tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cheese, nutritional yeast, and parsley, stirring to combine. Turn off the heat, divide among four bowls, and serve immediately. 

Excerpted from Umami Bomb: 75 Vegetarian Recipes That Explode With Flavor by Raquel Pelzel (Workman Publishing). Copyright © 2019.