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Cacio e Pepe is by far one of my favorite pasta dishes of all time. If it’s on the menu, I am definitely ordering it. Who doesn’t love a cheesy sauce laced with butter and scattered with bits of freshly cracked peppery goodness? The Romans knew they were on to something with this one. Traditionally, it is made with a thick noodle, like a spaghetti or bucatini, but I added my little spin on it and made it with shrimp. I know it sounds a little weird, but trust me, this dish will leave you wanting more.
This recipe is simple and technique driven. The first rule is to use quality ingredients. I would recommend using real Parmesan cheese and skipping the boxed pre-grated stuff–that will not work here because the pan sauce won't emulsify, and you will end up with a gooey mess. Second thing is to make sure your emulsion doesn't break. Keep the heat at medium-high, while agitating it continuously to keep the sauce silky and smooth. I like leaving the tails on the shrimp because I love chewing on them for extra flavor but feel free to take them off. Using fresh cracked pepper is the way to go, and you will see why as soon as you bloom it in the hot butter.
A little bit of lemon zest towards the end adds fresh citrus notes that go extremely well with the creamy sauce. Garnish with your favorite herb; I used oregano and parsley. This dish comes together in less than 20 minutes, and you could make this for an easy weeknight dinner to level things up. Or serve this finger-licking Cacio e Pepe shrimp at your next dinner party as an appetizer and watch your guests fight over the last one!
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1/ 2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- Oregano leaves, for garnish
- Parsley leaves, for garnish
Season shrimp to taste with salt. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, sear shrimp until golden and opaque, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining shrimp.
Add remaining 3 tablespoons butter to skillet and melt. Add pepper and toast until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in cream and shrimp, then slowly incorporate Parmesan until shrimp is warmed through and cheese is melted, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest. Adjust seasoning with salt, then garnish with oregano, parsley and serve.