Recipe

Crispy Cacio e Pepe Bites

by Sasha Marx

I picked up the technique for these fried squares of tapioca deliciousness while working as a sous chef for chefs John and Beverly Clark at Parachute Restaurant in Chicago. At the restaurant we served them as a snack: four bites of Pecorino-heavy fried tapioca, dusted in nori powder. The first time I tasted these croquettes, the texture blew my mind. They are cheesy and gooey like good arancini (Italian fried rice balls, often filled with mozzarella cheese) but the tapioca creates a lighter, stretchier texture that’s seriously addicting. I’ve always wanted to do a version that gave a nod to one of my favorite dishes from my childhood in Rome, cacio e pepe. I upped the amount of Pecorino in the recipe and folded in a lot of black pepper. The result, which I dubbed tapiocacio e pepe, is a dead-simple, gluten-free, cheesy bite that’ll be the hit of your next game-day party.

Yield
Makes sixty-four 1-inch croquettes; serves 8 to 10
SFS_CacioEPepeBites_Platter-24_20_1_.jpg
Ingredients
900 g whole milk
300 g small tapioca pearls
100 g Pecorino Romano, grated fine, plus extra for serving
15 g pepper
  Kosher salt
50 g tapioca starch, plus extra as needed
880 g vegetable oil
1 quart whole milk
2 cups small tapioca pearls
3½ ounces Pecorino Romano, grated fine (1¾ cups), plus extra for serving
5 teaspoons pepper
  Kosher salt
½ cup tapioca starch, plus extra as needed
1 quart vegetable oil
Essential Equipment
Instructions
    • 900 g whole milk 
    • 300 g small tapioca pearls
    Line 8-inch square baking pan with plastic wrap, leaving 4-inch overhang on all sides. Bring milk to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add tapioca pearls and cook, stirring occasionally, until milk returns to boil, 30 to 60 seconds. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring constantly, until tapioca plumps and exterior turns translucent (very center will remain white) and mixture is thickened, 6 to 8 minutes.
    • 100 g Pecorino Romano cheese, grated fine
    • 15 g pepper 
    • Kosher salt
    Off heat, fold in Pecorino, pepper, and 8 grams salt. Working quickly, using rubber spatula, transfer tapioca mixture to prepared pan and spread into even layer. Fold over excess plastic to cover tapioca mixture. Let cool 20 minutes. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.  
    • 50 g tapioca starch, plus extra as needed
    Place 50 grams tapioca starch in shallow dish; lightly dust cutting board with extra tapioca starch. Peel back plastic and invert tapioca square onto cutting board; discard plastic. Cut tapioca into 1-inch cubes, wiping knife with damp dish towel as needed to prevent sticking. Roll cubes in tapioca starch, shaking off excess, and transfer to baking sheet. (Cut, dusted cubes can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 3 days.)
    • 880 g vegetable oil 
    • Kosher salt 
    • Finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
    Heat oil in large saucepan over high heat to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C. Add one-third of cubes and fry, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary to maintain oil between 350 and 375 degrees F/177 and 190 degrees C. Transfer to paper towel–lined baking sheet or plate and blot to remove excess oil; season lightly with salt. Repeat with remaining cubes in two batches. Transfer croquettes to serving platter, dust generously with Pecorino, and serve.  
Instructions
    • 1 quart whole milk 
    • 2 cups small tapioca pearls
    Line 8-inch square baking pan with plastic wrap, leaving 4-inch overhang on all sides. Bring milk to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add tapioca pearls and cook, stirring occasionally, until milk returns to boil, 30 to 60 seconds. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring constantly, until tapioca plumps and exterior turns translucent (very center will remain white) and mixture is thickened, 6 to 8 minutes.
    • 3½ ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated fine (1¾ cups) 
    • 5 teaspoons pepper 
    • Kosher salt
    Off heat, fold in Pecorino, pepper, and 2 ½ teaspoons salt. Working quickly, using rubber spatula, transfer tapioca mixture to prepared pan and spread into even layer. Fold over excess plastic to cover tapioca mixture. Let cool 20 minutes. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.  
    • ½ cup tapioca starch, plus extra as needed
    Place ½ cup tapioca starch in shallow dish; lightly dust cutting board with extra tapioca starch. Peel back plastic and invert tapioca square onto cutting board; discard plastic. Cut tapioca into 1-inch cubes, wiping knife with damp dish towel as needed to prevent sticking. Roll cubes in tapioca starch, shaking off excess, and transfer to baking sheet. (Cut, dusted cubes can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 3 days.)
    • 1 quart vegetable oil 
    • Kosher salt 
    • Finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
    Heat oil in large saucepan over high heat to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C. Add one-third of cubes and fry, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary to maintain oil between 350 and 375 degrees F/177 and 190 degrees C. Transfer to paper towel–lined baking sheet or plate and blot to remove excess oil; season lightly with salt. Repeat with remaining cubes in two batches. Transfer croquettes to serving platter, dust generously with Pecorino, and serve.  
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