Sunday Brunch: Cacio e Pepe and Panzanella

WGN Weekend Morning News

Eric Hammond, executive chef of Coco Pazzo in River North, joins WGN Weekend Morning News to share his recipe for Cacio e Pepe and Panzanella.

Hammond is a New York native who has been a chef in Chicago for 20 years after attending the French Culinary Institute in New York, working with several top chefs at some of New York’s finest restaurants, including L’Ecole and Campagna.

Cacio e Pepe (Pasta with Pecorino Romano and black pepper)


  • 2/3 lbs. of spaghetti
  • 1 1/3 tbsp. salt
  • 1 1/3 tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 cup pecorino romano, ground to taste


  • Bring large pot of water to boil with 2 tbsp. salt
  • Grind peppercorns in a pepper mill or in mortar and pestle
  • Warm pasta bowl with the water or in oven
  • Cook pasta until al dente, 11-12 minutes
  • Reserve some pasta water for sauce before draining
  • Place pasta in warm bowl, scatter pecorino and most pepper on pasta, gently tossing
  • While mixing, incorporate pasta water until you have a moist and creamy pasta
  • Add more pepper and cheese and serve immediately

Panzanella (A popular Tuscan salad of soaked bread and tomatoes)


  • 2 1/2 lbs. Roma tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tsp. salt, with additional for seasoning
  • 3/4 lbs. ciabatta or sourdough bread, cut into 1 1/2 inches, cut into cubes and toasted.
  • 10 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped


  • Place tomatoes in a colander set over a bowl and season with 2 tsp. kosher salt and toss to coat.
  • Set aside to drain, tossing occasionally while bread is toasting. Drain for a minimum of 15 minutes.
  • While tomatoes are draining, preheat oven to 350 degrees and adjust rack to center position.
  • In a large bowl, toss bread cubes with 2 tbsp. olive oil. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until crisp and firm but not browned, about 15 minutes. Remove and cool.
  • Remove colander with tomatoes from bowl with tomato juice. Place colander with tomatoes in the sink. Add shallot, garlic, mustard and vinegar to the bowl with tomato juice. Whisking constantly, drizzle in remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil.
  • Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Combine toasted bread, tomatoes and dressing in a large bowl.
  • Add basil leaves, toss everything to coat and season with salt and pepper. Let rest for 30 minutes before serving, tossing occasionally until dressing is completely absorbed by bread.
  • Place in large serving bowl or platter and serve.

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