At a recent dinner, I encountered one of the more memorable food and beer pairings I’ve had in recent months. A plate of tagliatelle, covered in pencil shaving-sized flakes of truffle and a snowfall of Parmigiano, was served alongside two malt-driven, West Coast IPAs.
On paper, the combination sounded strange, if not off-putting. But the way the caramel sweetness of the malt tangled with the umami of the pasta was a thrill. Instead of being adversarial, the two drew out the other’s best attributes: savoury and sweet, unctuous and bitter, rich on the plate and full-bodied in the glass.
I decided to try the combination for myself - but with cacio e pepe. Cacio e pepe is having a moment. It helps that this Roman pasta dish - with its simple sauce of olive oil, Pecorino Romano, and copious quantities of black pepper, all bound together by starch-rich pasta water - takes roughly 15 minutes to make. Restaurants like Padella are also heightening its popularity; their toothsome version remains one of London’s most popular pasta dishes.
In tribute to the dying days of summer, I opted to add honey-coloured girolle mushrooms and oil infused with white truffles to my take on cacio e pepe. At the risk of alienating the purists (or gilding the lily), I think it’s a subtly decadent twist on the classic, which imbues it with a hearty base note of umami. To finish it off, a sprinkle of aniseed-bright tarragon imparts an enlivening freshness.
After a long, hazy tsunami of New England-style IPAs, it feels refreshing to return to the West Coast IPA, and its resin, bitterness, and caramel sweetness. Magic Rock's Cannonball is a tried-and- true take on the style, a token from California by way of Huddersfield.
On its own, the beer has a bracing intensity, but the cacio e pepe highlights its sticky marmalade and apricot notes, sweetening and softening it. Its residual bitterness, meanwhile, manages to cut through the orgy of cheese and butter and oil, sharpening the craving for the next mouthful. As far as surprising pairings go, this one is a keeper.
Girolle and Truffle Cacio e Pepe
2 tbs olive oil
3 tbs white truffle-infused olive oil, divided
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt, to taste
40g unsalted butter
50g finely grated
Pecorino Romano (preferably with a Microplane grater)
10g tarragon, roughly chopped
First, clean the girolles. In lieu of washing them with water—which will cause them to go all soft and spongy—use a pastry brush (or unused toothbrush) to carefully brush off all the dirt, focusing especially on the gills. This process will prevent them from being gritty when cooked.
Set a kettle on to boil. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium- high heat. When hot, add the mushrooms. Cook, tossing the girolles every now and then, for roughly five minutes. Season lightly with sea salt before taking the pan off the heat; remove the girolles from the pan and set aside.
Fill a medium saucepan with boiling water and add a small pinch of sea salt. Add the linguine and cook according to package instructions, or until al dente (I cooked mine for nine minutes; it’s usually a good idea to undercook by one minute from what the package suggests).
As the pasta cooks, add 2 tbs of white truffle-infused olive oil to the same frying pan you used for the girolles, and grind in your black pepper. Heat over medium-low heat for one minute, or just until the mixture starts to warm and become very fragrant. Remove from the heat.
Once the pasta is al dente, drain, being sure to save a large bowl full of the starchy cooking water. Add a good splash—approximately 4-5 tablespoons—to the frying pan with the truffle oil and pepper mixture. Add the butter to the frying pan next, stirring as it melts. Once the butter has melted, add in the cooked linguine, the grated Pecorino Romano, and the remaining 1 tbs white truffle oil. Toss vigorously with tongs or a fork for 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese melts and the sauce comes together. Your sauce should appear creamy and smooth, and should coat each strand of linguine. You may need to add several more tablespoons of pasta water to achieve the desired consistency.
Serve immediately. Divide the cacio e pepe between plates, and garnish with the tarragon. Top with additional black pepper and grated Pecorino Romano as desired.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen. Pick up a can of Magic Rock Cannonball all year round in store or at our online shop.