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An Italian White for My Favorite Pasta

Terredora di Paolo Falanghina 2008
MaryAnn Worobiec
Posted: May 10, 2010

Usually when I eat out, I’m drawn to dishes I don’t (or can’t) normally cook for myself. But when I saw bavette cacio e pepe on the menu at Enoteca San Marco in Las Vegas, I just had to order it.

Cacio e pepe, or “cheese and pepper,” couldn’t be a simpler dish to make, and I’ve been obsessed with it lately, making it nearly every week for months. Bavette (like a thin linguini) is the traditional shape, and once the pasta is cooked al dente, it’s mixed with a touch of olive oil, butter, a generous amount of grated pecorino Romano cheese, and fresh ground black pepper—resulting in an extremely satisfying dish.

Enoteca San Marco is one of chef Mario Batali’s restaurants, and the cacio e pepe recipe I’ve been making is based on Batali’s recipe, so I just had to see how my version stacked up. They were very similar, though the San Marco version was creamier than mine, and the pasta a bit more toothsome. No matter who cooks it, I just love this dish.

For a wine pairing, I went with Terredora's 2008 Falanghina, from the Campania region in southwest Italy. It was extremely fragrant, showing floral and citrus peel notes and the crisp pear, apple and mineral flavors that really complemented my pasta. I even picked up a whiff of white pepper that paired with the black pepper in the dish. It was a good value (the restaurant served a 250ml pour for $17), and I rated it 88 points, non-blind. members: Get our quick list of Top Values among Italian whites.

Member comments   3 comment(s)

Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA —  May 10, 2010 3:54pm ET

The secret to the extra creaminess in the restaurant's version is probably the splash of pasta cooking water incorporated in the sauce. At home, it's pretty much salted water with a bit of starch from one cooking of the pasta. In a restaurant, order after order of pasta makes the water very starchy, and a great natural sauce thickener.

Maryann Worobiec — Napa, CA —  May 10, 2010 4:52pm ET

Harvey, you're absolutely right. And for anyone wanting to try this at home, pasta water is a must. One of the reasons I love making the dish so much is that I've turned it into a one-pot meal. I reserve some of the pasta water before I drain the pasta, and then I wipe out the pot and heat my olive oil in that same pot until it is really hot. Then I pour in the reserved pasta water (and jump back, I learned that the hard way), and then toss in the cooked pasta, cheese, pepper and butter.

Sussanah Nolan — Brooklyn, NY —  May 12, 2010 9:12am ET

Love the Terredora Falanghina. Love cacio e pepe (big fave @ our house, too!) Never tried them together, but now must. Glad you had at least one good experience in LV.

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