Creamy Cacio e Pepe with Fennel-Celery Salad

Three Italian cheeses provide creamy flavor to pasta seasoned with pepper, served with Rach’s Fennel-Celery Salad alongside.


  • Salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 6 ribs celery with leafy tops
  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus more for drizzling
  • 2 teaspoon-1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 cup fresh sheep’s milk or cow’s milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese


Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the starchy cooking water.

While the pasta is working, trim off the top of the fennel bulb and save 2 tablespoons of the chopped fronds. Quarter, core and thinly slice the fennel. Thinly slice the celery on an angle.

In a salad bowl, dress the fennel, celery and parsley with the lemon juice, a good drizzle of EVOO, salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in the pasta pot, heat 1/4 cup EVOO over medium heat with 2 teaspoons pepper for spicy, or 1 tablespoon for very spicy. Stir in the reserved pasta water and the ricotta. Add the pasta, Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese; toss. Top the pasta with the fennel fronds and serve the salad before or after.

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