GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Chef Lisa O'Connell, aka, The Sauce Lady lives by the motto, "Cook well, cook slow and cook often." So, when she decided to experiment with an Italian twist on the American favorite, mac and cheese, the results surprised even her.  "It was love at first bite," she excitedly explained. "Cacio y Pepe ( cheese and pepper pasta) the humble Italian pasta dish is making a HUGE comeback all across chic restaurant menus across the country. Seriously, it's one of the most humble yet satisfying dishes to make."

Here it is, so why not give it a try?

Cacio e Pepe pasta  (Cheese and pepper pasta )
8 oz. Spaghetti or other similar shaped pasta
1 C. Parmesan or Romano cheese divided
2 T. Butter
1 T. Fresh cracked peppercorns

Generously fill a medium skillet with water, add salt, bring to a boil and cook pasta as directed.   While pasta is cooking, prepare a medium sauté pan over low heat with a drizzle of olive oil and the fresh cracked pepper.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of the starchy pasta water and cracked peppercorns to the sauté pan, heat until fragrant. 
Add ½ of cheese and let melt, stir together and whisk to combine into a paste like sauce.  Add more of the starchy water as necessary.  Looking for a cream like consistency.
Strain water from pasta and add pasta to skillet with sauce.  Alternatively, using tongs, transfer the cooked pasta to the sauté pan. 
  Toss pasta in sauté pan turning to coat all strands of pasta, over low heat, adding more cheese and/or starchy water as needed.   Serve immediately, top with remaining cheese and more pepper as desired. 

*I undercook pasta by 1-2 minutes (based on preparation time) to ensure it’s al-dente
* The above recipe is for about 2 servings and can be easily doubled. 
* Add crushed peppers for a kick of heat and color
* Add fresh chopped garlic to pepper corns for even more flavor

Cacio e pepe pizza

Flatbread or Naan as crust
3 T. Finely grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 Tsp. Fresh cracked peppercorns
Olive Oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 350.  Top crust of choice with a healthy drizzle of olive oil and fresh cracked pepper.  Bake crust n oven at 350 for about 5 minutes or just until hot and slightly crisp.  Remove from oven and top with shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese.  Serve immediate.

Cacio e pepe with zucchini
1 medium sized zucchini
1T. Butter
1 Tsp. Fresh cracked peppercorns
2 T Parmesan or Romano cheese
Olive oil for drizzling

Slice or Spiral washed zucchini.  In a medium saucepan, drizzle olive oil, add butter, zucchini, fresh cracked pepper and cheese.  Sauté for about 3 minutes or until just softened and beginning to brown, serve immediately.  Garnish with additional cheese and pepper as desired.