The Five Roman Mother Sauces: Part II


In my previous post, The Five Roman Mother Sauces: Part I, I introduced Gricia . Today I will be discussing the next three sauces on the list: Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino, Burro e Parmigiano, and Cacio e Pepe. These three mother sauces are similar because each calls for few ingredients, which are staples of most Italian home pantries-at least in my house. Let’s start with Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino.

Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino 

Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino


This dish is often served at impromptu late night dinners when you have unexpected guests and decide to put together a spaghettata di mezzanotte (midnight spaghetti dinner). It is also known by the shorter name, Aio Oio, which in Roman dialect means garlic & oil.

In my version I like to add fresh long hot red peppers. This is entirely optional and is not used in the traditional recipe.


Ingredients (serves 4)

1 lb. spaghetti pasta

3 fluid oz. extra virgin olive oil

8 to 10 chopped or sliced garlic cloves (your choice, I prefer chopped) which will give you 2 to 3 oz.

1 oz. flat Italian parsley, chopped fine

1 teaspoon dry crushed hot red pepper flakes

Salt & pepper to taste

Pasta water as needed

While pasta is cooking in well-salted water, drizzle oil into sauté pan and set on medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and cook until golden color. Garlic cooks quickly, so be careful not to burn it. Immediately remove from the heat and add remaining ingredients and about 4 tablespoons of the pasta water to bind it all together and prevent the sauce from burning. When pasta is al dente, remove from the water and toss in pan with the sauce. Add more pasta water if needed.


Burro e Parmigiano

Burro e Parmigiano


This is the original Alfredo sauce which was invented by Alfredo di Lelio in 1908 and is still served at his eponymous restaurant in Rome today. Although the dish became famous when cooks introduced heavy cream, the original recipe calls only for three ingredients: pasta, butter and cheese. The classic version of Alfredo is served with homemade fresh fettuccine pasta; however, when burro e parmigiano is made at home, you can use any kind of pasta as this is a very forgiving and versatile sauce that pairs well with all types of pastas.


Ingredients (serves 4)

1 lb. pasta of your choice.

8 oz. unsalted butter (2 sticks)

8 oz. freshly grated fine Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (make sure to save extra cheese for sprinkling on top)

Salt & Pepper to taste

3 oz. pasta water

While pasta is cooking, toss all ingredients into a bowl. When pasta is al dente, add to the bowl and mix in order to bind and create a smooth creamy sauce. Serve immediately.


Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe


This is one of Rome’s ancient dishes. No one really knows exactly when it was first served; however, legend tell us that the recipe dates back to the Roman empire. Just like Gricia, the main ingredients of cacio (Roman for pecorino cheese) and pepe (Italian for black pepper) were common nonperishable staples available to local shepherds who needed those while working in the fields. The original recipe called for only three ingredients, although the use of olive oil is optional and often disputed by purists of the sauce. I personally enjoy the addition of the oil as it adds complexity to the sauce and reinforces the flavor of the black pepper. This is my take on it.


Ingredients (serves 4)

1 lb. spaghetti

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (optional)

2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

2 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese

4 oz. pasta water

Boil pasta in well-salted water; meanwhile, heat the black pepper in the oil over medium heat, making sure not to burn it as you just want to warm up the pepper to enhance its flavor.

When pasta is cooked al dente, drain and toss in the pan with the extra virgin olive oil and the black pepper. Remember to save the pasta water as you will need it to melt the cheese and bind all ingredients. Next, alternate adding the pasta water and the cheese using as little or as much water required to reach preferred consistency. Remember that the pan is off but it is still hot and that is what melts the cheese along with the hot water. You can add a little salt if you wish, but be careful because pecorino is a salty cheese and there is plenty of salt in the pasta water.

…Grazie Altrettanto!


One Comment Add yours

  1. daniloasta says:

    I love this takes!!!! (y) (y) (y)


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