Manteca Brown Crab Cacio e Pepe

This reinvention of the classic Roman pasta dish by Manteca adds rich brown crab meat to make one of the capital's most iconic pasta dishes 



Serves 4

Preparation time 5 minutes

Cooking time 10 minutes

Like many of London's most successful restaurants, Manteca started with a pop-up. And after several roaringly successful residencies, it set up shop permanently in Shoreditch, in a restaurant that ironically used to be a Pizza Express. We say ironically because Manteca is the antithesis of drab, chain-made cardboard (sorry, pizza) – a gluttonous purveyor of modern Italian sharing plates that constantly hypnotises diners with its bowls of hand-rolled pasta, in-house charcuteriefire-cooked meats and fish, hunks of salt flecked focaccia and cups of affogato.

It’s one of London’s most exciting restaurants and the brainchild of David Carter, a master of open-fire cooking best known for founding Smokestak, and ex-Petersham Nurseries, Kitty Fisher's and Sager + Wild chef Chris Leach. Aside from championing small-plate interpretations of modern Italian cooking, a large part of Manteca’s identity is a nose-to-tail philosophy, which strives to use the whole animal. It's a concept familiar to diners who've eaten at the likes of St John, The Marksman or Smoking Goat, and is something now possible at Manteca's Shoreditch site with its fully-fledged panelled hanging room, which was purpose-built for a programme of whole animal butchery and meat curing.

While the location of Manteca may have changed through the years, some things have stayed the same. And one of those is perhaps its most fabled dish – the brown crab cacio e pepe, which has been a permanent feature on Manteca's menu for the past five years. It’s an ingenious re-invention of the traditional Roman pasta dish and was inspired by the interesting flavour combinations Leach encountered on a trip to California which made him wonder whether crab meat was the perfect addition to this cheese and pepper classic.

It’s arguably one of London’s most iconic pasta dishes and a stroke of genius – a perfectly balanced, rich sauce punctuated with black pepper, Grana Padano and tangy crab meat that clings as dearly to tonnarelli pasta as you did your first boyfriend. A trip to Manteca will see you devour this dish in minutes, mopping up all the remaining sauce (otherwise known as liquid gold) with thick slices of focaccia. It's undoubtedly the best morsel of the meal.

If you can’t get your fix at Manteca, this recipe means you can recreate it at home in around 15 minutes with just six ingredients. One tip from Manteca is to blitz the crab meat before using it, as they do in the restaurant, which makes for an extra velvety sauce.


  • 100g brown crab meat (Manteca blitz the crab meat into a very smooth paste, which makes the sauce velvety. If you can’t blitz it, it won’t be an issue, it will just be a slightly coarser texture)
  • 50g of butter
  • 20 cracks of fresh black pepper (about 5g)
  • 400g of dried pasta – a short pasta like rigatoni or spaghetti works very well
  • 80g grated Grana Padano
  • 1 lemon


  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil, when it boils add enough salt so it tastes like a highly seasoned soup. Cook the pasta for about a minute less than the packet instructions.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, toast the freshly ground pepper in a large pan over a medium heat. When you can start to smell the aromatics of the pepper, add the butter and a generous splash of pasta water (about 100ml) and let it all boil into an emulsion.
  3. Add the brown crab meat and mix until it is homogenised. Remove from the heat until the pasta is nearly done. When the pasta is ready, strain and add to the sauce. Put on a medium high heat until the sauce begins to boil then take it off the heat. Add the grated cheese, tossing until evenly distributed. Season with lemon and salt until it tastes good to you.
  4. Distribute among four plates and finish with a crack of fresh black pepper on each.