My friend and colleague Chris suggested adding parsley or basil to this dish to add color. I applaud the creativity, but trying this recipe for the first time, I wanted to stay as close to traditional as possible. That and we were still waiting for our new round of herbs to grow at the time of writing this post. You may have figured out by now, that I am rarely a slave to a recipe. If I think a variation will make it better, I go with my gut. I actually think this recipe is best as is, but love the idea of making it your own. For our purposes, I wanted the two main ingredients, cheese and pepper to shine. They are the stars of the show after all.
Many recipes that I read call for olive oil or butter, some don’t. Ultimately, after my research when I attempted to put this dish together, I opted for simple. I’m glad I did, because I couldn’t believe how creamy, buttery and flavorful this dish tasted without any butter or olive oil. And I’m not one to skimp where food is concerned! This is absolutely the only pasta I have ever made without olive oil! Ok except for pasta and butter, but that’s another story…
- 1 pound spaghetti, bucatini or tonarelli
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorn (give or take depending on your taste)
- 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese in reserve (or more to taste)
- 1 wooden spoon full of salt (or salt to taste)
- Reserved pasta water (more on that below)
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
- While the water is being heated to a boil, fill your pasta bowl with very hot water to keep it warm.
- Grind the peppercorns coarsely (with a pepper mill, spice grinder or if your feeling adventurous, a mortar and pestle).
- Grate 1 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese.
- When the water comes to a boil add your pasta to the pot and cook until al dente.
- Remove the hot water from your pasta bowl. Then set aside some of the pasta water before draining the pasta (or removing the pasta with tongs).
- Add the pasta to the warm pasta bowl and immediately add the grated cheese and most of the pepper.
- Mix quickly and add in some of the reserved pasta water to moisten and incorporate the cheese and pepper (cacio e pepe)
- Serve right away while the pasta is hot! Pasta waits for no one! Use the remaining pepper and cheese to add to the pasta at the dinner table to your taste.
You can have your cheese grated for you at the grocery store or deli or you can grate it yourself. Just do NOT buy pre-packaged cheese (step away from the green shaker) at all costs! Seriously, just order pizza if it comes to that.
If you grate yourself take a look at the pictures below. Use the large cheese grater or a microplane to grate the Pecorino Romano. I find that the large side (with tiny wholes) of the cheese grater works best for the cup of cheese that initially goes into your pasta. However, I prefer to use the microplane to sprinkle additional cheese directly on my dish. Go with what works for you.
We have a wonderful pepper mill which really did the trick for this dish. The picture and name are here.
When reserving pasta water, I always take more than I’ll ever need. I use a measuring cup with a spout and scoop out at least a cup. The spout makes it easy to pour into the pasta but it is not imperative. I also keep that water until dinner is done…just in case.
Lastly, most similar recipes that I consulted claimed that these ingredients or a similar variation of, serve 6. Our recipe fed just me and Mike. Please don’t judge us.