Two years ago, I spent what may well have been the best two weeks of my life in Italy with my two sisters—jumping from city to city, seeing allllll the sights, and of course eating and drinking everything. While we had many amazing meals, the cacio e pepe that I had in Rome was the highlight. Creamy butter, nutty parmesan, and the perfect amount of fresh ground pepper. A gift from the heavens, if you ask me.
So cacio e pepe popcorn? No brainer. I saw this gem tucked away in the back of Small Victories (which I’m cooking from all month!) under the heading “Seven Easy-but-Memorable Bites to Have with Drinks”—clearly the section intended solely for me—and within minutes I was snacking away.
What I love most about this recipe (and truly, so much of this book in general) is that you probably have the ingredients on hand. I almost always have freshly-grated parmesan in my fridge, and butter? Do you know me at all? I will never be without butter. I think it was part of my marriage vows.
Three ingredients. That’s it. You could certainly pop your own popcorn over the stove, but honestly I threw a plain ol’ bag of popcorn in the microwave and used that. Be sure to butter and pepper your popcorn as soon as you remove it from the heat or microwave so that it sticks to the kernels. Otherwise you end up with parm and pepper at the bottom of the bowl and you’ll be forced to grab a spoon and lap it up. I mean…throw it out. Ya, that.
I paired the popcorn with an Italian cocktail, the Sbagliato (pronounced, from what I can tell, spah-li-ah-to)—the lovechild of an Italian spritz and a negroni. Sbagliato actually means mistake in Italian; legend is, a bartender was making a negroni and accidentally added Prosecco instead of gin—but the customer insisted on trying it and loved it even more than his old negroni. And the sbagliato was born!
I like this cocktail because it adds a little sweetness that you don’t get with a traditional negroni. It worked well with the cacio e pepe because it adds a little bitterness and sweetness to the savory snack. I went a little heavier on the Prosecco and lighter on the vermouth and Campari to keep it light and easy to sip.
So fire up the Netflix, cozy up under a blanket, make yourself a cocktail and gather ’round a big ol’ bowl of cacio e pepe popcorn. Happy Friday!
Cacio e Pepe Popcorn
adapted from Small Victories; serves 2-4 people
- 1 bag of microwave popcorn
- 1/3 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
- fresh ground pepper
Pop the popcorn to package instructions. While still hot, transfer to a large bowl and immediately add parmesan and as much cracked pepper as you like—I used about 3/4 tsp. Mix well and serve immediately.
makes 1 cocktail; build each individually
- .5 oz sweet vermouth
- .5 oz Campari
- Prosecco or sparkling wine—I prefer a drier, less sweet variation
Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add vermouth and Campari and then top with the Prosecco or sparkling wine. Mix and enjoy!