Justin Chapple demonstrates how to make a delicious compound butter that can be used on pasta, vegetables, and more.

By Bridget Hallinan
August 10, 2020
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Cacio e pepe, that classic Roman pasta dish made with Pecorino Romano and black pepper, is always a delicious meal. In this new episode of Mad Genius: Home Edition, Food & Wine Culinary Director-at-Large Justin Chapple applies the cheese-plus-black-pepper concept to a compound butter, and then pairs that butter with spaghetti and broccoli rabe. While it’s not the traditional way to make cacio e pepe, the end result is still a delicious, simple dish, and you can use the leftover butter to flavor plenty of other dishes, too. Read on for some of Justin’s key tips for making the recipe.

Start With the Butter

You’ll need four ounces (aka one stick) of unsalted butter to make the cacio e pepe compound butter, and you want to make sure it’s softened—otherwise, “you will be here all day,” Justin says. Use a fork to mash it together with the Pecorino Romano, black pepper, and kosher salt, creating a smooth paste. Then, roll it up into a log in either parchment paper or plastic wrap, and pop it in the freezer until it’s just firm.

Grab the Broccoli Rabe

To add some vegetables to the dish, Justin includes one pound of broccoli rabe. It may sound like a lot, but he says it will “shrink down to almost nothing.” When you’re prepping it, don’t worry about chopping it too finely. Bite-sized pieces work great.

Save the Water

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and toss in the prepped broccoli rabe. Once it's crisp-tender, it’s ready to come out of the pot. Leave the boiling water in there and use it for the next step of the recipe, cooking the spaghetti.

Bring It All Together

Traditionally, Justin says you would add the hot pasta to a “slurry of pasta water and cheese and black pepper.” In this case, you’ll be using the cacio e pepe butter. You first add the pasta to the broccoli rabe in the bowl and toss to combine them; then, you take a box grater and shred the butter right on top. Mix it all together with a little bit of reserved pasta water to make a silken sauce, and you’re all set to eat.

Try It On Other Things

Beyond this recipe, Justin recommends the cacio e pepe butter on boiled or roasted Brussels sprouts, or sourdough toast, and says you can try it with other vegetables and popcorn, too. “You can add it to a ton of different things, and everything will have a little kiss of Italy,” he says.