YES. I’M. SERIOUS. So here’s the deal. This is a cacio e pepe inspired mac n’ cheese. It has cracked black pepper pan toasted in butter & parmigiano reggiano cheese. It tastes like cacio e pepe, with the texture and consistency of mac n’ cheese. Cacio e pepe on it’s own is a slippery buttery pepper sauce with a cooking liquid base. Since this is mac n’ cheese, the sauce is milk based and thickened with flour (a “roux”) to achieve the mac n’ cheese texture. In other words, a HOME RUN.
I am not going to waste your time telling you anything else, I’m way too excited for this one! Here’s the recipe:
3 tbsp unsalted butter (if you have salted, then use less salt below)
1.5 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk
12 oz finely shredded good parmigiano reggiano cheese (about 4 cups, grated cheese might measure less)
A wire whisk is ideal for stirring the sauce
One 8" or 9" baking dish, greased or sprayed with cooking spray.
Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
Bring a salted pot of water to a boil, cook Spaghetti until "al dente", about 1-2 minutes less than al dente time noted on box. Drain and set aside.
Melt butter over low heat in a large saucepan. Add black pepper. Sauté pepper in butter for 1-2 minutes over med/low heat. The butter will bubble, watch it and stir constantly with a wire whisk so the butter does not burn. The butter should taste peppery and nutty. Try to taste a small (cooled) amount of the butter without specks of pepper in it so the pepper speck isn't what you taste. If the butter is infused with a peppery nutty flavor it's perfect.
Add flour and make a roux by whisking the flour into the butter until a rough paste forms. Add salt and let cook for a minute or two.
Slowly add in milk, 1/4 cup at a time, continuously whisking and breaking up any clumps of the flour mixture until all of the milk is added. Simmer over medium heat, whisking frequently until the mixture thickens. This will take about 10-15 minutes.
Once thickened, reduce to low heat and stir in roughly 3/4 of the shredded cheese (reserve about 1/4 of it for sprinkling on the top), stirring continuously until the cheese is fully melted and the cheese sauce is complete. Taste (a cooled spoonful), add salt to taste if desired.
Turn burner off, add cooked macaroni into saucepan and stir to coat in sauce. Pour into greased pie/baking dish*
Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake until golden brown on top, about 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and serve.
*At this point, you can allow to cool, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake. This can be baked the next day if preparing in advance. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to baking (cold glass cannot go straight into the oven). The bake time would increase slightly if using this method since it will be cold.