The Secret To New York's Best Cacio E Pepe

Italian food has given the world so many different ways to carb-load, and it only makes sense to pay homage to one of Italy's oldest recipes, cacio e pepe.

The legend of cacio e pepe first started around the time of Rome's birth — about 2,500 years ago when shepherds and merchants carried around the dish's key ingredients in their sacks. Since shepherds lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle, they had to bring food with them that didn't go bad. Typically, they'd carry dry pasta, pecorino cheese and black pepper.

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Over the years, there have been many different variations of this signature dish, but one of the best is at New York City's Lupa Osteria Romana.

"A lot of people consider our cacio e pepe one of the best in the city," James Kelly, executive chef at Lupa told The Daily Meal. The popular, trattoria-style restaurant has been serving the dish since it first opened 21 years ago.

So how does Lupa keep this traditional pasta dish a main attraction so many years later? The secret ingredient, according to Kelly, is butter.

After seasoning the boiled water with a handful of salt, chefs at Lupa use bavette, a classic noodle from Rome for their cacio e pepe. For the sauce, Kelly said the biggest key is toasting about 30 cracks of fresh ground black pepper for one serving. Once the black pepper and extra virgin olive oil are mixed well, Kelly tosses in the butter — Lupa's staple ingredient.

"Classically they wouldn't use butter," but Kelly said it helps the sauce bind to the actual pasta. After combining the noodles and pasta sauce, Kelly makes sure that the cheese is thoroughly melted before serving Lupa's iconic cacio e pepe to guests.

If you're looking for the golden standard for cacio e pepe then there is no better place than New York's Lupa. But there are, of course, other restaurants where you can try this iconic dish and a good place to start would be at one of the best Italian restaurants in America.