As a nod to the Italian dish that got away and inspired by Constantine Toronto, Philip and I created our take on this classic meal, putting a seasonal twist on it to make a Cacio e Pepe Pizza with Spring Ramps. Do we have you dreaming of Italy yet?
In celebration of my 30th birthday, I jetted off with my mom (who also celebrated a big birthday) to Italy, the land of pizza and pasta. With a laundry list of dishes I knew I had to experience (when in Italy), I inhaled, enjoyed and repeated classics like gelato, cannoli, pizza, gnocchi, meatballs, lasagna, tiramisu, ravioli, panini, and a few hundred espressos with equal amounts of vino rosso.
But, one thing on my list I did't try... cacio e pepe. I know, how was I in Italy for two weeks, more specially Rome for six days, and not try their traditional dish. In my defence, every time I was about to order this pasta dish, carbonara (get our Pesto Carbonara recipe here) would catch my eye and without hesitation, I'd order another one of my favourite egg and pancetta pastas. Major regret not crossing this off my list, but fingers crossed that coin I threw in the Trevi fountain won't let me down.
What is Cacio e Pepe?
Translated to mean cheese and pepper, Cacio e Pepe is a classic Roman pasta dish. Traditionally made by melting butter, adding in Pecorino cheese (cacio) and an incredibly generous amount of black pepper, the mixture magically comes together to create a luxurious cream sauce. Like all good things in life, it's incredibly simple and made with quality ingredients.
With Philip's birthday being a few weeks after mine, we made a reservation at Constantine, a Toronto restaurant celebrating the diverse cuisine of distinct regions found in the Mediterranean, including Italy. Skimming the menu for names of dishes I knew best, I was intrigued to see a Cacio e Pepe pizza, taking two beloved Italian dishes and fusing them together. Genius.
Tip: Use a pizza stone to ensure a crisp crust. Before topping the pizza, place the dough on a non-porous surface that is dusted with cornmeal or semolina flour. This will allow the dough to easily slide onto the baking stone.
As a nod to the Italian dish that got away and inspired by Constantine, Philip and I created our take on this classic meal, putting a seasonal twist on it to make a Cacio e Pepe Pizza with Spring Ramps. Adding notes of onion and garlic that complements the butter, pepper and cheese, our Cacio e Pepe Pizza resembles buttery garlic bread with stringy mozzarella and salty pecorino. Do we have you dreaming of Italy yet?
Cacio e Pepe Pizza with Spring Ramps
- For the Dough
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp dry active yeast
- 2 cups bread flour plus additional for dusting (275g)
- 1 ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- For the Toppings
- 3 tbsp butter melted
- 1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
- 8-10 fresh ramps roots trimmed and sliced in half lengthwise.
- 50 g pecorino romano
- 250 g Buffalo mozzarella
- 2 sprigs basil finely chopped
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 tbsp cornmeal
- No.1 | In a small bowl, mix together warm water, yeast and honey. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until yeast rises to the surface and becomes foamy. Meanwhile, measure or weigh out your flour in a large bowl and stir in the salt.
- No.2 | Form a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture. Stir until a shaggy dough forms and turn out onto a floured surface. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic, adding a dusting of flour as required, about 3-5 minutes. Lightly oil a clean bowl, and place the dough ball inside. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or a clean towel and place in a warm draft-free area. Allow to rise for at least one hour, until doubled in size.
- No. 3 | After the dough has risen for 30 minutes, preheat your oven to 500°, or higher, if your oven allows. If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven at this time to preheat. * see notes
- No. 4 | Heat a skillet on medium high heat with 1 tbsp of butter. Place the ramps in the pan and season with salt and pepper. Saute until wilted and tender, about 2-3 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- No. 5 | Make a basil oil, by mixing together the chopped basil and olive oil.
- No. 6 | Once dough has finished rising, turn out into a lightly floured surface. Divide into two equal pieces, then flatten and shape your dough using your fingers. Roll it out to about ¼” thickness. Place the dough on a cornmeal dusted baking sheet.
- No. 7 | To top the pizza, brush the dough liberally with melted butter. Season heavily with fresh ground black pepper and sprinkle with half the pecorino romano cheese. Tear the buffalo mozzarella into small pieces and place sporadically on the pizza. Lay the ramps in and around the mozzarella then season again with pepper.
- No. 8 | Place the pizza in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Remove the pizza and top with remaining pecorino romano and drizzle with basil oil. Slice and enjoy!