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Playing Cacio e Pepe Arancini

“Cacio e pepe pasta is a Roman classic. The pasta is coated only in Pecorino Romano (sheep’s milk) cheese and black pepper, and marries to the pasta with a little hot pasta cooking water. Here I use 3 peppercorns and both Parmigiano-Reggiano (for stock and breadcrumbs) as well as copious amounts of Pecorino Romano in the risotto.”

Ingredients
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 large piece of rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon each white, black and pink peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups short-grain rice, such as Arborio or carnaroli
  • Salt
  • 1 cup dry vermouth or white wine
  • 2 cups loosely packed grated Pecorino cheese
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1 lemon, zested then cut into small wedges
  • A handful of flat-leaf parsley, very finely chopped
  • 1 cup loosely packed grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Oil, for frying
Preparation

In a sauce pot, warm stock and rind over medium-low heat.

Toast peppercorns in a dry skillet then crush or mill into a coarse consistency.


In a rounded-bottom pan, heat EVOO over medium to medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic, and stir 2-3 minutes. Add peppercorns and rice, and toast rice another minute. Add vermouth or wine and let it absorb. Add a few ladles of stock to cover rice and stir vigorously with wooden spoon to develop starch. Keep adding stock a few ladles at a time and stirring until stock is almost used up and rice is almost al dente. (From the time you begin adding the stock the risotto should take 18 minutes.)

Stir in Pecorino cheese and butter to finish then pour risotto out on to a parchment-lined pan to cool. Refrigerate to firm up.

Set up breading station: In three shallow dishes place flour, eggs and breadcrumbs combined with salt, pepper, lemon zest, parsley and grated Parm.

Heat the frying oil in a large, deep skillet, Dutch oven or table fryer to 350°F.

Use a small scoop to form 2-inch balls of rice. Coat the balls first in flour, then egg and then breadcrumbs. Fry arancini to deep golden. Serve hot with small lemon wedges alongside.