For the past couple of years, Cacio e Pepe has been having a moment and it’s not hard to see why. A tangle of pasta dressed in pecorino and a cascade of black pepper – who can be mad at that? But I often wonder what life-long lovers of Cacio e Pepe think about this phenomenon. At first, I’m sure it was a “Duh, where have you been?” feeling. But with the onslaught of Cacio e Pepe-ized foodstuffs, I’m sure they’re feeling a little attacked. Cacio e Pepe chips, fries, pizza, even beignets – it’s probably a little too much. I can sympathize, but I have to be true to who I am and I am incapable of reading a room. So, here I am, adding fuel to the blasphemous fire, with my Cacio e Pepe Pierogies.
Cacio e Pepe Pierogies: A Culinary No-Brainer
Now, in my defense, Cacio e Pepe Pierogies are so good. Like, I’m surprised they’re not being served from every food truck window in the world. This isn’t simply a case of bandwagoning. I didn’t try to force the Cacio e Pepe flavor profile on something completely incompatible. I feel like the pierogi format lends itself quite naturally to the Cacio e Pepe spirit. It never felt like a stretch.
The most famous pierogies, at least in North America, are the potato and cheese variety. That cheese is usually cheddar, but I speak from experience when I say just about any cheese will melt and taste good in mashed potatoes. I know, shock of the century. So, swapping cheddar for pecorino? No big deal! The recipe practically writes itself. And black pepper? I put that on everything anyway. I put it on my popcorn and it’s magic. Cacio e Pepe Pierogies are the most delicious no-brainer in all of human history. Sure, that may seem like an overstatement right now, but make these and then come talk to me.
So, aside from making a few Italians cry, Cacio e Pepe Pierogies? Not a bastardization in my book. And even if they are in your book, I still think you’ll dig ’em. Pierogies are kind of hard to hate. I have yet to find a person who passionately dislikes them and I don’t think I’m going to find one soon. Even store-bought freezer pierogies are good and they have at least enough nutrition in them to sustain one very stressed university student. Again, speaking from experience.
Feeling the Pinch
Now, these suckers are super easy to make. The dough, simple. The filling, easy. The forming, well, that can get a little tricky.
When it comes to sealing the pierogies, pinch like you’ve never pinched before. Pinch like you pinched your big sister for not letting you hang out in her room when you were four. Pinch like you want to make a point. Unlike potstickers or soup dumplings, you don’t wet the edges of a pierogi. The pierogi dough is sticky enough to seal by itself if you’re willing to put a little muscle into your seams. If you don’t pinch with a hint of rage, your pierogies will open in the water. Not cute. So, think of someone or something annoying and pinch.
Crazy Sexy Cool Pierogies
Now, the pierogi has a reputation for being humble, cheap food. And I think that what makes these dumplings so approachable and soul-satisfying. They take a direct route to all your pleasure centers. Nothing challenging about them. But pierogies can verge on the side of heavy. And, I will not lie, a large plate of them can give me flavor and texture fatigue. Too much of the same thing.
So, with these slight pitfalls in mind, I decided to zhuzh them up a bit with a few contrasting flavors and textures. In keeping with the Italian theme, I added a bed of radicchio. The potato filling, although savory, has a touch of sweetness to it and the radicchio bitterness cuts through that sweetness and the fat of the cheese in a way that is so enlivening.
The crispy shallots are another addition to the plate. Pierogies tend to be served with caramelized of sauteed onions. They are very tasty with pierogies but I find the texture of the onions is a touch too similar to the dumplings themselves. So, I opted for crispy shallots because they deliver that oniony flavor but also bring some much need crunch to the plate. Plus, by frying the shallots, you get some delicious shallot-infused oil to brown your cooked pierogis in. So much joy to be found in one easy topping.
So, that’s pretty much all you need to know about these Cacio e Pepe Pierogies. I hope they bring as much joy to your tastebuds as they’ve brought to mine – even if it is against your better judgment.
Cacio e Pepe Pierogies with Radicchio & Crispy Shallots
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
- 1/4 cup neutral oil I used canola oil
- 1 large egg
- 1 egg yolk
Cacio e Pepe Pierogi Filling
- 2 large russet potatoes peeled
- 1 1/4 cup percorino cheese shredded
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 3/4 tsp salt
- Fresh ground black pepper A LOT
- 1 head radicchio quartered, leaves separated
- 2 shallots peeled, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 cups neutral oil I used canola
- 2 tbsp fresh dill fronds
- shredded percorino for sprinkling
- fresh ground pepper
- sour cream for serving
- apple sauce for serving
For the Dough
- Whisk the flour and the salt together in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until a shaggy dough forms.
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface and lightly knead it until silky to the touch. Wrap the dough tightly and transfer to the fridge. Let chill for 1 hour.
For the Filling
- While the dough is chilling, make the filling. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1-inch thick medallions. Place them in a medium-sized pot and cover with water. Place over high heat and bring the water up to a boil. Liberally salt the water and let the potatoes cook until they are fork-tender. This should take 10-15 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes and add the cheese, sour cream, butter, salt and a ton of pepper. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until the butter melts and the mixture is smooth. Cover and set aside to cool at room temperature.
- Place the shallots in a small saucepan and cover with the oil. Place the saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook the shallots, swirling occaisionally, until golden. This should take 10-12 minutes. Remove the shallots from the saucepan, using a slotted spoon. Transfer them to a plate lined with paper towel and immediately sprinkle with a little salt. Set aside.
- On a floured surface, roll the dough out to a 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut circles out of the dough using a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter. Expand the circle a little, using a wooden dowel, before adding 2 teaspoons of the filling to the center.
- Fold the dough taco-style and secure with a hard pinch in the center. Pinch to seal the pierogi all the way around. Transfer the finished dumpling to a floured tray. Repeat until you run out of dough or filling or both.
- Once the pierogies are sealed, you can either place the entire tray in the freezer and freeze for 30 minutes before transferring them to a freezer bag. Or you can cook them right away by placing a large pot of water over high heat. Once the water is boiling, salt the water and add your pierogis, working in batches. Cook the pierogis for five minutes. Transfer the cooked pierogis to a plate and set aside.
- Heat a 1/4 cup of the reserved shallot oil in a large skillet until simmering. Working in batches, fry the pierogis until golden.
- Arrange the radicchio leaves on a large platter in a single layer. Top the radicchio with the golden pierogies and garnish with the crispy shallots, dill fronds, shredded pecorino cheese, and fresh black pepper. Serve immediately.