Food and Drink

Whether they’re store-bought or foraged, try adding mushrooms to this classic Roman dish

(Wild) mushroom cacio e pepe pasta

Cacio e pepe, literally cheese and pepper, is a beloved pasta dish originating in Rome as it features grated pecorino Romano cheese and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Coarsely ground pepper is the way to go for this dish as it gets toasted and fragrant in butter.

With lots of mushroom foraging still available, local porcini, hedgehogs and yellow foots have found their way in everything from omelets to grilled cheese and salads. A quick sauté with butter and fresh herbs makes for an easy umami-packed accompaniment to roasted fish or meat. Note: It’s best to clean mushrooms using a small sharp knife (for gentle scraping) and/or a damp kitchen towel rather than drenching them with water. You can also substitute your favorite store-bought mushrooms such as shiitake, oyster and cremini. In this riff on the Roman dish, finely grated Parmesan plays well with Pecorino Romano and since the mushrooms get cut up in substantial pieces, you’ll need a pasta shape with some nooks and crannies — as opposed to delicate spaghetti or capellini, which are better suited to a marinara or cream sauce without much else added. Make sure to time your pasta once the water comes back to a boil and cook it just to al dente — you want some bite to it — as it will finish cooking in the sauce and reserve some pasta cooking water to add to final dish to help bind the sauce to the pasta itself. Enjoy it hot out of the pot with some more cheese or some red pepper flakes. — Kim Sunée

Makes 3 to 4 servings

8 ounces pasta such as penne, rigatoni, farfalle, fusilli, bucatini.

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 ounces diced pancetta or bacon (optional)

8 to 10 ounces mushrooms such as chanterelle, porcini or shiitake, oyster, or cremini (3 to 4 cups packed, chopped), trimmed, cleaned, and coarsely chopped

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 to 1 1/4 teaspoons fresh coarsely-ground black pepper

2 ounces cheese/1 cup total finely grated Parmesan and finely grated pecorino

• Bring about three quarts of water to a boil (in a 5-quart pot) with some salt. When water is at a full boil, add pasta and stir. When water comes back to a full boil, stir again and set timer; cook (one or two minutes less than) according to package directions — you want the pasta to be al dente, just tender with some bite, but not mushy/overcooked as it will continue to cook in the pasta sauce.

• While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large (large enough to hold sauce and pasta) sauté pan over medium-high heat. If using, add diced pancetta or bacon, and cook, stirring occasionally until starting to brown and crisp, about three to four minutes. If mushrooms are damp, pat thoroughly dry with a paper or kitchen towel. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring only once or twice. Let cook about one to two minutes without disturbing and until starting to turn golden brown. Reduce heat to medium, if needed, and add garlic and butter and stir. Once butter melts, add one teaspoon pepper and stir. Add just a pinch of salt (bacon/pancetta can be very salty and you’ll add more later, as needed).

• Once pasta is ready, use a large, slotted spoon or spider/strainer ladle and add pasta directly into the pan with mushrooms. Reserve about a half cup of pasta water. Once all the pasta is in pan, toss to coat pasta with mushroom and black pepper sauce. Stir in half of cheese and toss to coat, adding up to 1/4 cup more pasta water, as needed. Taste and add more pepper or salt, if needed. Serve at once with more cheese on top.

Kim Sunée

Kim Sunée is a bestselling author ("Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home," "A Mouthful of Stars," "Everyday Korean: Fresh, Modern Recipes for Home Cooks") and a former magazine food editor. She's based in Anchorage. For more food and travel, visit