Cacio e Pepe is a pretty classic, easy pasta recipe which is what I love about it. The problem I have with it is, for a dinner, it can almost be TOO simple. I wanted to find a way to make it a little more interesting and also incorporate a protein source with the recipe. The answer is this Brown Butter Cacio e Pepe with Parmesan-Milanese Chicken.
This chicken breasts are pretty straight forward. I started with some thin pieces, gave them a quick egg coating, and then into a breadcrumb/parmesan mixture. Then its just a simple pan fry in an oil/butter mixture. See, pretty simple!
Now is the fun part! All that good chicken flavor is in the bottom up the pan. I started by pouring off some of the excess residual frying oil and then added some fresh butter. I allowed that to brown up a little, building the sauce up from there like a more standard cacio e pepe. The brown butter gives it a nice underlying nutty flavor that goes really well with cheese.
For cheese, I did a mixture of parmigiano reggiano and pecorino romano. This mixture is pretty standard for Italian fare and is a good combination of flavors and textures.
To round out the recipe, I tossed in some peas at the end for a textural and green element. While not necessary (I actually initially argued against this with Rob), it does help create a more rounded pasta dinner.
Brown Butter Cacio e Pepe with Parm-Milanese Chicken
- 1 Lb Linguine
- 6 Chicken Breasts thin (cut or pounded)
- 2 Eggs whisked
- 2 Cups Breadcrumbs
- 1 Cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 5 Tbs Butter split into 2 and 3 tbs portions
- 1 Tbs Olive Oil plus extra
- 3 Garlic Cloves minced
- 1/2 Cup Reserved Pasta Water
- 3/4 Cup Parmigiano Reggiano grated
- 3/4 Cup Pecorino Romano grated
- 1 Cup Frozen Peas
- 1 Tbs Fresh Cracked Peppercorns split in thirds
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Cook the pasta per packaged instructions starting about when you flip the second batch of chicken breasts. Reserve the water towards the end to ensure a good starchy water.
- Place the eggs in a bowl or plate along with the breadcrumbs and parmesan in another. Salt and pepper both.
- Coat the chicken pieces in the egg then the breadcrumb/cheese mix.
- Heat the 2 Tbs of butter and olive oil over medium-high heat in a saute pan or skillet.
- Fry the chicken pieces for about 5 minutes per side or golden brown, working in batches if needed. Add additional oil if needed between batches. Remove the chicken and either place in a 250F oven or tent with foil to keep warm.
- Pour off any remaining oil/butter from the dish, but try to keep any left over remnants from the chicken (its basically flavor after all).
- Reduce heat to a little below medium.
- Add the remaining butter, allow to melt, and then brown (about 4-5 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add 1/3 of the peppercorn at the beginning.
- Add the garlic and another 1/3 of the peppercorn for an additional minute or two. Do not let the garlic burn.
- Add half the starchy pasta water a little at a time so that it helps thicken but not create an overly wet sauce. Also add the remaining peppercorn.
- Add the cooked pasta, cheeses, peas, and remaining pasta water, tossing everything together until evenly coated.
- Serve the chicken over the pasta.