Just in case you’ve been living under a rock and don’t already know, churros are long pieces of fried dough that are traditionally rolled around in a cinnamon sugar mixture, and let me tell you, they are ADDICTING. I don’t even know if that word properly describes what they are. If you’ve had them before, which I’m sure you have, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Let’s be honest with ourselves though, there is nothing wrong with fried dough rolled in sugar. (Hello doughnuts!) There’s no point in trying to fight the attraction. Now, cacio e pepe is a Roman spaghetti dish that is probably the most simple dish I’ve ever encountered, literally like five ingredients, and two of them are cheese and black pepper; not fancy at all but it tastes like a million bucks. Because I love both of these dishes and because they have nothing to do with one another whatsoever—let alone shouldn’t be invited to the same party and breathe the same air—naturally I figured the best thing for me to do was mash them up into one happy marriage. These are savory churros that are flavored with an obscene amount of fresh cracked black pepper, Parmesan and Pecorino Romano cheese. The fun doesn’t stop there, because if you were thinking to yourself that there just wasn’t enough cheese in this post, well there’s also a black pepper cheese sauce for dipping your cheesy black pepper churros in and with that, I think it’s safe to say that this is your next weekend project. Yes? Yes.
Let’s start by making the dipping sauce for our churros because we want it ready to go waiting for us when those churros start coming out of the fryer. This isn’t just any dipping sauce, it’s a black pepper cheese sauce. I want this to also taste like cacio e pepe as well. Start by making a roux. In a small saucepan, combine the butter and flour and cook for about 30 seconds.
**Note: A roux is always equal parts butter and flour and it’s important to let it cook for a little bit so that the raw flour taste goes away. As it cooks, it’ll start to develop a nutty aroma.**
Stir in the milk and cook over low heat, stirring often, until the mixture has thickened. Season with salt, pepper (lots of it), granulated garlic, and granulated onion. Remove from heat and stir in the Monterey Jack, Parmesan and Pecorino Romano until smooth and melted through. Cover and set the sauce off to the side.
**Note: I like using Monterey Jack because it melts so beautifully, and I add in the Parmesan and Pecorino because those are classic cacio e pepe flavors/cheeses.**
Let’s work on the churros next. Bring a cup of water and the salt to a simmer, and then remove from the heat. Watch it carefully because you don’t want it to boil rapidly and then have the water evaporate.
Stir in the flour, baking powder, and black pepper with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together to form a stiff dough.
**Note: Keep stirring, at the beginning it’ll seem as though the dough won’t come together or as if it’s too stiff and thick, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be.**
Transfer the dough to a bowl and then stir in the Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses until evenly distributed. Some of it will melt into the warm dough, but that’s okay.
Let it cool down a little bit so that you don’t burn your hands when you go to pipe out the dough into the hot oil. Just keep in mind that you don’t want it to cool down too much or else it’ll become too stiff to work with. So keep an eye on it.
Transfer the dough to a piping bag, fitted with a star tip. You can also just use a round circle tip, if you don’t want those ridges that churros traditionally have.
**Tip: You want a sturdy piping bag for this because since the dough is so stiff, you’re going to be squeezing the bag pretty hard and if it’s a flimsy piping bag, it’ll pop open. If you have a cloth one that would be perfect!**
Hold the bag right above the hot oil and squeeze out about 2 inches of dough, then use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut the dough from the bag. Continue doing this until you have 4 to 5 churros in the oil and fry until golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain with slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up excess oil. Then transfer them to a wire rack set over a baking sheet.
**Note: You don’t want to overcrowd the pot because if you do, the oil will drop in temperature and the churros won’t fry properly.**
Churros can sometimes be tricky when you fry them. Sometimes you’ll notice that they’ll burst and fall apart when you fry them. This happens when the oil isn’t at the proper temperature. You want it to be 350 degrees F. I recommend using a deep-fry (or candy) thermometer to keep an eye out on the oil’s temperature.
Pile the warm churros onto a plate or platter and then sprinkle them generously with fresh cracked black pepper, and grated Parmesan and Pecorino (just to really hone in on that cacio e pepe flavor).
Serve the churros with the black pepper cheese sauce. You can rewarm the sauce over low heat, stirring until it’s loosened and warmed through.
**Tip: If the sauce has thickened too much, stir in about 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk to loosen it up a bit.**
You have to really love pepper to get behind these churros, but I happen to LOVE black pepper so much so I don’t mind it too much. But you totally don’t have to add as much black pepper as I did, if you’re not a fan. Either way, savory churros with cheese sauce for dipping is something you need in your life as soon as possible.
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
- ¼ teaspoon granulated onion (or onion powder)
- ¾ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano
- 1 cup water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon fresh cracked black pepper, plus 1 teaspoon for garnish
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
- ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
- Vegetable or canola oil, for frying
- To make the cheese sauce, set a medium saucepan over moderate heat with the butter. Once melted, whisk in the flour and cook for about 30 seconds. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook, stirring often, until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, granulated garlic and onion. Remove from heat and stir in the cheeses until melted through and smooth. Cover and set aside.
- To make the churros, place the water and salt in a medium saucepan over and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add the flour, baking powder, and 1 tablespoon black pepper. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a very stiff dough. Stir in ¼ cup Parmesan and ¼ cup Pecorino. Transfer the mixture to a sturdy piping bag, fitted with a star tip.
- Fill a medium pot halfway up with oil and bring up to 350 degrees F, using a deep-fry thermometer. Once hot, carefully pipe out about 2 inches of dough right above the oil, and cut off with a pair of kitchen scissors. Continue piping in churros until you have about 4 to 6. You don't want to overcrowd the pot or else the temperature of the oil will drop. Fry for about 4 minutes, turning over halfway. Drain with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up the excess oil. Transfer to a wire rack, set over a baking sheet to prevent the churros from getting soggy while you continue to fry the rest.
- Rewarm the cheese sauce over low heat, adding in about 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk if it's too thick. Pile the warm churros onto a large plate or platter and sprinkle with the remaining black pepper, Parmesan and Pecorino for garnish, and serve with the warmed cheese sauce for dipping.