The flavours of cacio e pepe, which means cheese and pepper in Italian, come together and pair perfectly with tender and crispy chicken meatballs.
1 yellow onion, finely minced
Salt & pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped oregano
450–500g ground chicken
1/2 cup (40 g) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 1/4 cup dry orzo
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup finely grated Pecorino cheese
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Heat your oven to 400ºF, line a sheet pan with parchment paper, or spray well with non-stick cooking spray.
Place a medium sauté pan over medium heat and add a teaspoon of oil and the onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly golden, about five minutes. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for 30 seconds, then transfer the onion mixture to a large bowl and set aside to cool.
Once cool, add the breadcrumbs, herbs, ground chicken, egg, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Season with salt and pepper and, using two forks, mix well to combine. Scoop the mixture into about two portions and roll into meatballs. Place on the prepared sheet pan and roast for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165ºF. Set aside to rest.
Meanwhile, prepare the orzo cacio e pepe. Bring four cups of water to a boil over high heat and season with half a teaspoon of salt. Stir in the orzo and cook for six to eight minutes or until al dente.
Assemble and Serve
Meanwhile, place a skillet over medium heat. Toast the pepper until it smells spicy and fragrant, about one minute. Turn the heat down to medium-low and, using a mesh strainer, scoop the noodles straight into the pan with the pepper. Add half a cup of the remaining cooking liquid to the pan and the Pecorino and Parmigiano. Then, stir and toss vigorously until a creamy sauce forms, adding more pasta cooking liquid if needed.
Season to taste with salt and extra pepper, and serve immediately topped with the meatballs. Enjoy!
TIP: You canreplace the fresh herbs with three-quarters of a teaspoon of dry Italian seasoning.