Cacio e Pepe Pasta with Roasted Mushrooms
Photo: Liz Rueven

Cacio e Pepe Pasta with Roasted Mushrooms

We ate at least one bowl of Cacio e Pepe Pasta every day while in Rome a few weeks ago. That seems like a lot, I know. True confession: sometimes, I even ate it twice a day. It’s a Roman classic that’s on every menu and one of the few, if not only, vegetarian pasta dishes found at many restaurants. This addictive sauce of parmesan cheese, butter and plenty of black pepper was thoroughly enticing in its creamy, slightly salty simplicity.

While we were in peak truffle season in October, we ate plenty of shaved truffles over our pasta, too. Italian truffles are certainly a prized seasonal ingredient, but they aren’t treated as preciously as they are in the USA. We’ve never seen a scale used to weigh our fungi topping (I hate that), although sometimes there’s a surcharge (OK with that).

We never ran into pasta dishes with veggies mixed in, but found our veggie fix by ordering sautéed cicoriadark, slightly bitter, wild greens (kinda like dandelion greens) that are omnipresent in the Roman countryside. Sometimes we found antipasti options that offered all kinds of goodies for kosher leaning folks like us.

kosher Roman antipasti
Photo: Liz Rueven

Let’s just say that we ate a lot of Cacio e Pepe and sautéed greens.

 Scroll down for recipe that will transport you there. 

For this version of Cacio e Pepe Pasta we’re suggesting roasting Hen of the Woods or Maitake (the Japanese name for the same) mushrooms. You’ll find these umami rich, highly aromatic mushrooms at outdoor markets in the USA throughout autumn.  Sub in cremini or porcini if you can’t find Hen of the Woods but their unique texture and feathery beauty are worth seeking out.

While you may top your pasta with these crispy Hen of the Woods ‘shrooms, consider using this same recipe but blitzing the roasted mushrooms in a processor and using the pureed mushrooms in a blended sauce to coat penne or any tube pasta with ridges. This would be especially appropriate if using less expensive and less distinctive varieties, like portobellos.

kosher Roman pasta
Photo: Liz Rueven

You can’t go wrong, either way.

Roman vegetarian antipasti
Photo: Liz Rueven



For all natural kosher cheeses, including aged parmesan that you’ll need for this recipe, we suggest you purchase from our friends at Grow and Behold.

For more on our travels to Rome and specifically our time in the Roman Jewish ghetto, scroll down or click here.

For more on Italian Jewish cuisine, consider one of my favorites (and one of my first cookbook purchases), Classic Italian Jewish Cooking: Traditional Recipes and Menus, by Edda Servi Machlin (kosher). This volume is part memoir, part cookbook and details the rich culinary history of the Jews of Pittigliano in Tuscany.

For more on Roman cuisine, check out Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City by American transplants, Katie Parla and Kristina Gill. While this is not a kosher cookbook, it has two rich sections on Roman Jewish cuisine; one illuminates ancient traditions and recipes and the other details newer influences as a result of the influx of Jews from hostile Middle Eastern countries.


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