Should You Add Ranch Seasoning To Cacio E Pepe?

Photo: Claire Lower

People being mad about Italian food online (and in my home) is one of my favourite forms of content. It’s a righteous anger, a pure anger, an anger I (usually) have to experience vicariously through my Italian-American boyfriend. But even I, a person who orders pineapple on her pizza, am slightly scandalised by The Kitchn’s Ranch Cacio e Pepe, as written by Megan Splawn.

Not that I’m above putting ranch seasoning on things. I most certainly am not. But the beauty of cacio e pepe (Editor's Note: "cheese and pepper") is that those two ingredients — freshly ground pepper and Pecorino or parm — get to shine, unobscured. Ranch, as a flavour, is an eclipser. To be fair, this dish does seem to have been created for “two kids who loathe black pepper,” so eclipsing and obscuring is exactly what it is meant to do here.

But semantics aside, I still had to know if cheesy ranch noods were something that needed to be in my life, so I made them according to Megan Splawn’s instructions:

Here’s how I make my ranch cacio e pepe at home: While the pasta is boiling, melt a nice knob of butter in a large [pan]. Add 2 teaspoons of homemade ranch seasoning or a tablespoon of the packet and let the spices cook for 1 minute before adding the reserved pasta water (scant 1/2 cup) to simmer. Add the noodles, toss to coat, and follow with the Parmesan.

“A nice knob” isn’t a standardised measurement, but I know one when I see it. I ended up using three tablespoons of butter, and a tablespoon of ranch seasoning.

The resulting noodles were fine. They tasted like ranch, but I kind of wish I had used the cheap powdered parm, as the nuances of the fancy cheese I used were hard to detect. If you like ranch, this is great news. But if you were told you would be having cacio e pepe, and you were served this, you might be disappointed or — if you are Italian — so angry that you tweet about it. This is a hack for convincing children to eat noodles, but a wack cacio e pepe recipe.


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