Recipe: Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe is the essence of Italy—it’s pasta, it’s parm. And it is simple and stunning.

cacio e pepe italian pasta recipe murray's cheese

Our Executive Chef, David Elkins, has worked in some of the most prestigious kitchens in the world, and he’s sharing his personal recipe for the dish. Check it out:

Quick, easy, insanely satisfying, and 100% authentic Italian cuisine. We hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do.

cacio e pepe italian pasta recipe murray's cheese

A Journey to the Kingdom of Parm

Editor’s note: A few years ago, some of our team took a cheese tour of Italy. One of our team members, Andrew Perlgut, wrote about the experience, and we are re-publishing his post from September, 2015.

My journey to the Italian countryside, somewhere between Reggio Emilia and Parma, began 4 years ago—before any of the aging, gorgeous wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano had begun their life as milk, before the cows had eaten the lush grasses growing nearby, before Riccio and his team heated the milk, added the rennet and salt, cut the curds, formed the wheels, and then brined them. My journey began before all of that, in a dimly lit conference room upstairs at Murray’s HQ, with a dozen of my coworkers.

On that afternoon four years ago, as we filed into the room, over thirty different plates of Parmigiano-Reggiano were arrayed across the room. We were given simple instructions: pick the best one.

Parmigiano-Reggiano, the King of Cheese, is PDO, or protected designation of origin. That means that, to make it, you must follow a strictly codified recipe and live within a very specific geographic area.

parmigiano reggiano terroir

With aged cheeses, the goal is to get as much moisture out of the curds as possible, so that there is no spoilage during the aging process. Removing moisture is a multistep process, involving salting, heating, and cutting the curds. The salt works through osmosis, pulling liquid out of the curds while introducing sodium back into them. The heat causes evaporation. Cutting the curds smaller and smaller removes any pockets in which moisture might hide in.

Parmigiano-Reggiano starts by combining skimmed milk from the previous evening with whole milk from the morning’s milking. From there, the new, partially-skimmed milk gets pumped into giant copper vats. The vats are heated, rennet is added, and the milk begins to separate into curds and whey. The curds are then cut, the vat is heated again, and the curds are hooped together. No cheesemaker who produces PDO Parmigiano-Reggiano can deviate from this process in the slightest, which is what guarantees that remarkable consistency you notice from one piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano to the next.

parmigiano reggiano milk cheese making process italy

italy parmigiano reggiano milk cheese making italy

italy parmigiano reggiano milk cheese making italy

So, if all parm should taste the same, why did we go through that tasting exercise 4 years ago? Because, while the PDO helps to guarantee that the cheese you are getting conforms to certain requirements, there are other factors at play in the cheesemaking process: the specific feed of the cows, minuscule variations in temperature and time between cheesemakers, the length and conditions of the aging process, where the cows happen to be in the reproductive cycle, etc. All of these pieces, when put together, can lead to noticeable differences. So we tasted through the 30 different options, and we narrowed them down.

And then a few months later we did it again.

By repeating the tasting, we got to try wheels from different parts of the year and with slightly different ages. We tasted wheels that tended toward the nuttier side, we tasted wheels that were overwhelmingly fruity, and, if my tasting notes are to be believed, we tasted wheels that had a distinctly broccoli-ish flavor.

Each subsequent tasting helped narrow down the options until we ultimately determined a favorite. It had the perfect balance of nutty and fruity, salty and sweet, savory and umami. Then we reached out to the farm that produced it, locked in their entire production, and officially had what you now know as Murray’s Parmigiano-Reggiano.

For a cheesemonger, the first time you crack open a wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano is always a memorable experience. I remember my first perfectly. I was helping to train some new cheesemongers in Cincinnati and was told to show them how to crack open parm. No problem! The most beautiful thing about cracking a wheel of parm is this: milk, at most 16 hours old, goes through the cheesemaking process, and once that wheel is put into its mold, the milk on the inside begins a two-year residency on a shelf. When a cheesemonger cracks a wheel, that milk is seeing the light of day for the first time in over 730 days.

Four years on, I finally got to walk into the making room where our Parm is crafted. I’ve cracked many wheels of Parm, but this was going to be my first time seeing that milk in liquid form.

The first room we walked into, the cheesemaking room, was hot and humid and bustling with activity. We walked through it and into the refrigerated milk room, where the milk comes in each evening to sit and await the next morning’s milk.

Back into the humidity and heat, and we got to meet Riccio and watch him and his team make Parmigiano-Reggiano. The walked us through the whole process as they went, from heating up the milk and adding the rennet to cutting, gathering, and pressing the curds.

italy parmigiano reggiano milk cheese making italy

italy parmigiano reggiano milk cheese making italy

After settling into their final shapes, the wheels take a 20-day bath in a salt brine to help further reduce internal moisture and bring the saltiness of the cheese up to the levels that we know and love.

And then, they wait. For two whole years. We can call this their growing up phase, when they are reaching a point of being mature enough to assume the throne as the King of Cheese.

italy parmigiano reggiano milk cheese making italy

Murray’s Monger of the Month: Robert Broyles, Grand Central Manager

There are so many great, knowledgeable people who work at Murray’s that we wanted to highlight some of them and ask some cheese-centric questions!

First up, meet Robert, our Manager at the Murray’s Cheese in Grand Central Market.

Where are you originally from? 

Coral Springs, Florida (just outside of Ft. Lauderdale).

How did you first get into cheese? 

Honestly, just needed a part-time job. My friend helped me get a position at a cheese shop she was working at in Boca Raton, FL. When I started to discover the vast universe of the cheese industry, with it’s historical significance and scientific backing, I was hooked!

What is your favorite cheese at the moment? 

My favorite cheese at the moment, and probably forever, is our Cavemaster Reserve Greensward. No matter how many times I dive into this cheese, I’m always discovering something new I love about it.

What’s your favorite thing that your Murray’s sells?

One word: Charcuterie! Whether I’m in the mood for something simple for a sandwich, or something fancy like the Jamon Iberico, our selection of charcuterie is never boring!

What do you love about Murray’s?

The people! I’ve never met such a passionate team of people. The excitement about everything we do is so contagious, it makes for a great place to work! 


Come say hi to Robert in Grand Central Market!

Cocktail Recipe: Between the Apple Trees

Today is February 21. It is seventeen degrees warmer in New York City than it is in Los Angeles. The Pacific Northwest is experiencing record chill. Temperatures across the Midwest are uncharacteristically temperate. Across America, we seem to be having a moment of seasonal dyslexia. Which makes this the perfect time for an autumnal cocktail.

One of our favorite bars is a place in Williamsburg called Hotel Delmano. It opened ten years ago but feels, in the best way, more like it’s 110. We brought the staff some of our new items—a delicious boiled apple cider syrup and rosehip vinegar we found on a trip to Denmark—and asked them to go to town. They played around with flavor profiles for a bit and eventually hit on a combo of apple brandy and roasted walnut bitters. It has a sweet, woodsy taste and all the depth of Robert Frost writing about foliage. They call it Between the Apple Trees. Take a gander:

Hotel Delmano cocktail recipe with boiled apple cider syrup and rosehip bitters from Murray’s Cheese

Hotel Delmano cocktail recipe with boiled apple cider syrup and rosehip bitters from Murray’s Cheese

Quite a looker, eh? We’ll tell you this much: it tastes as good as you’d hope. Better, even. It’s also quite easy to put together. And you can do so yourself, because we’ve got the recipe right here:


1.5 oz Neversink Apple Brandy
.5 oz boiled apple cider syrup
.5 oz lime juice
.25 oz rosehip vinegar
Dash Fee Brothers Walnut Bitters
Pinch of fresh thyme leaves
Garnish: apple fan

Simply combine all the ingredients in a shaker (sans apple fan, of course) and give it a vigorous rattling. Then, strain it into a glass. Add the apple fan, admire what a nice aesthetic touch it is, and start drinking.

Hotel Delmano cocktail recipe with boiled apple cider syrup and rosehip bitters from Murray’s Cheese

Hotel Delmano cocktail recipe with boiled apple cider syrup and rosehip bitters from Murray’s Cheese

Hotel Delmano cocktail recipe with boiled apple cider syrup and rosehip bitters from Murray’s Cheese

We found that this cocktail pairs well with cheese, because obviously. In particular, Roomano brings an umami quality that highlights the fruitiness of the drink, and  St. Stephen combines to taste like apple ice cream.

Wherever you are, whatever flavor of bizarro weather you’re experiencing, this drink’s gonna do you right.

Hotel Delmano cocktail recipe with boiled apple cider syrup and rosehip bitters from Murray’s Cheese

Making Barden Blue at Consider Bardwell Farm

This is the barn at Consider Bardwell Farm in West Pawlet, VT.

consider bardwell farm barden blue cheese barn cheesemaking

Wait. No. That is a shed outside of the guest house at Consider Bardwell Farm. This is the barn.

consider bardwell farm barden blue cheese barn cheesemaking

Still, the shed photo is instructive. Notice the color of the sky? It is very early in the morning. Certainly earlier than some of us who visited the farm a couple weeks ago are usually up and ambling at. Some of us are rather delicate. And though we aspire to be up with the sun, reading the paper and leisurely making breakfast in a skillet, and have even made several valiant attempts at realigning our circadian rhythms via sleep-tracking apps and tonal lighting around the house, some of us’s idiot bodies stubbornly refuse to cooperate with such well-intended actions. And so we remain delicate.

But it is also not every day that we are invited up to Vermont to make a batch of Murray’s very own Cavemaster Reserve Barden Blue cheese, so we gladly jump at the chance and wake up early with almost no complaining at all.

What is Barden Blue? It’s a natural-rind, raw milk blue cheese, the idea for which began several years ago as a collaboration between Murray’s and Consider Bardwell. That barn? That barn was long ago converted into a state-of-the-art creamery, and it is there that Barden Blue is made. Three weeks later, it comes down to New York City, where we age it in our cheese caves. The result is a buttery blue cheese with chocolaty depth, deep minerality, and the slightest edge of pepper. It looks like this.

consider bardwell farm barden blue cheese barn cheesemaking

But when we walk to the barn from the guest house, definitely not tripping twice on the way, it looks like this.

consider bardwell farm barden blue cheese barn cheesemaking milk vat

What happens in between those two photos, so that the latter becomes the former? Dear reader, we shall tell you now.

The first thing you need to know is that this is Leslie Goff.

consider bardwell farm barden blue cheese barn cheesemaking leslie goff cheesemaker tattoos

Leslie is the head cheesemaker at Consider Bardwell. She is 28-years-old. She began working at the farm when she was 14. That’s half a life ago. Also, her tattoos are very good.

There is a prevailing notion that cheesemakers are uniformly older dudes with beards. This notion is wrong. Almost the entire Consider Bardwell team is female. This includes all the cheesemakers, who are around the same age as Leslie.

So, here’s how Leslie & Co. do it. The morning’s milk is loaded into the vat, which is then heated to 70 degrees. In goes culture (a proprietary blend, which includes a heavy rotation of bluegrass music), which then gets stirred in as the temperature of the vat is increased to 90. This is when the rennet is stirred in, at which point the contents of the vat are left to coagulate.

Perhaps these sound like simple steps. Having been there to see the process in action, we can assure you: they are not. The work is intensely physical, with a million details and variables to get exactly right. In fact, it took two years of R&D to get Barden Blue to be the cheese it is today. Making cheese well is an exacting, meticulous process.

It also involves a lot of waiting, yet none of that is downtime. Example: you are about to see a photo of Leslie cutting the congealed contents of the vat, so as to separate the curd from the whey. The amount of time it takes from adding the rennet until that moment is one hour. One does not simply watch this happen. There are other vats in which others cheeses are being made, there is cleaning to do, there is highly-detailed documentation at every step. Leslie is not a bored person. Her time is consumed.

Now, here she is cutting the curd.

consider bardwell farm barden blue cheese barn cheesemaking leslie goff cheesemaker tattoos

It is a near-magical thing to watch a vat of milk transubstantiate into a jiggly mass like that. We recommend doing it sometime.

So, what happens next is that the vat is churned to get the curds into roughly this shape.

consider bardwell farm barden blue cheese barn cheesemaking cheese curd

At which point it is salted and drained. While being drained, Leslie’s team commences the step of the process known as hooping. Curds are gathered up by hand and formed into their molds. This is how a cheese gets its shape.

consider bardwell farm barden blue cheese barn cheesemaking cheese curd

Still, there is plenty of whey in the hoops. Here’s how to get it out. First: drain the hoops.

consider bardwell farm barden blue cheese barn cheesemaking

Then: press the hoops.

(As we said, there is a lot involved in the process. Capturing it all in one go is a legitimate challenge. Also, some of us were still a bit too bleary to be alert enough to document every step. But it’s a very cool process. Imagine the unavailable photo is this: the hoops are stacked one on top of the other in this contraption that has a big metal slab at the top which then pushes down on the hoops, expelling any excess moisture.)

For context: from the moment that the vat was first heated to the moment when the hoops are drained and pressed, it has been four hours. It is still not lunchtime, but some of us are very hungry.

To be a cheesemaker, do this every single day.

To be a cheese eater, celebrate the fact that, across the world, untold numbers of cheesemakers do this every single day.

And that, in short, is how Barden Blue is formed. Not how it is made, mind you—the cheese still needs to be pierced, transported to our caves, and aged. This is simply the first step of the process.

And Consider Bardwell was simply the first stop on this trip to Vermont. Stay tuned here on the blog, where we will be chronicling our time at Jasper Hill Farm, up in the northeast reaches of the state. They also get up very early. If that leads to more missing photographs, well, our apologies in advance.