Wine and Walnuts

A blog about eating, drinking, cooking and reading in the not so Deep South

Food and Wine Pairing: Cacio e Pepe and Graffigna Centenario Reserve Pinot Grigio 2010

Cacio-e-Pepe #1

(Cacio e Pepe, literally, cheese and pepper.  Think of it as fancy mac & cheese for adults.)

I initially saw mention of this recipe over on Adam Roberts’ fine blog, The Amateur Gourmet, and was instantly intrigued. A mimimalist recipe with few ingredients, yet rich, silky and decadent, and easy to prepare? Ok, I’m in.

You know from the recipes I share on the blog that I pretty much never tackle anything time-consuming or complex, even so, this one is at the top of my list for easy-to-make, yet elegant and delicious.

Don’t be fooled by its simplicity though; like Bon Appetit says, it’s the techniques used that elevate this recipe to “magnificent” status.  Agreed.

So yes, you definitely want to pay attention to technique here – such as using a sauté pan to cook almost done pasta and sauce together, for one –  to get the full effect of this recipe’s lusciousness.

(I paired this recipe with Graffigna Centenario Reserve Pinot Grigio 2010; see wine notes below recipe)

Recipe:  Cacio e Pepe (from May 2011 issue of Bon Appetit)


• Kosher salt
• 6 ounces pasta (such as egg tagliolini, bucatini, or spaghetti)
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, divided
• 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
• 3/4 cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan
• 1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino


• Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 5 quart pot. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender.
• Drain, reserving 3/4 cup pasta cooking water.
• Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.
• Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter.
• Reduce heat to low and add Grana Padano, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted.
• Remove pan from heat; add Pecorino, stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is al dente. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.)
• Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve.


• To warm the bowls, ladle some of the boiling pasta water into them while finishing up the recipe, then just before you’re ready to plate the pasta, pour the water out and towel dry the heated dishes, placing pasta into them just after.

Wine Notes:  Graffigna Centenario Reserve Pinot Grigio 2010

Graffigna Centenario Reserve Pinot Grigio 2010I am not really a fan of Pinot Grigio, but in the spirit of trying new wines, I tried this one, which I received as a sample.  It retails for around $12.

My impressions:  This Pinot Grigio is not like the sea of other watery, uninspired, “there’s-no-there-there” Pinot Grigios out there.  It’s got body and personality. 

On nose and palate: citrus peel – like the pith of a citrus fruit. Lemony, citrusy, but with some kind of smoky? chalky? flavor and aftertaste.  Nice acidity.  The most notable characteristic to me was the very pronounced notes of lemon peel. However, the more I tasted, the less I liked this. Personal taste,folks. I’m sure plenty of people would find this a pleasing characteristic; I did not.

Wine notes from elsewhere around the web: 

“This wine is a pale, straw color with aroma of white flowers and citric fruit. On the palate, it is fruity, balanced and fresh. Pairs well with cheese, seafood and fresh fruit.”  (Winemaker’s notes from

“Very pale color. Lemon, mint and flowers on the nose. Quite dry and citrussy, with juicy acidity giving this wine a youthfully bitter quality. But there’s good lemony flavor intensity and the finish is brisk and persistent.”
(87 Points, International Wine Cellar)


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About The Author

Kimberly Houston


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