Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

from Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

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Here is a classic pasta, as delicious as it is simple and fast. But because it is such a minimalist creation every ingredient is of utmost importance. Use a very good authentic Pecorino, one produced in Lazio (the Italian region where Rome is located) or in Tuscany or Sardegna. The cheese is at its best when aged only 8-10 months. And grind the black peppercorns just before making the dish—I like to crush the black pepper by hand in a mortar, into coarse bits that explode with flavor as I enjoy the pasta.

Serves 6

2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns or more to taste
1 pound spaghetti
Salt for the pasta water
1-1/2 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano or more to taste

Bring a big pot of salted water to the boil.

Grind the peppercorns very coarsely, preferably crushing them in a mortar with a pestle or in a spice grinder.

Warm up a big bowl for mixing and serving the pasta—use some of the pasta water to heat the bowl, if you like.

Cook the spaghetti until al dente. Quickly lift it from the pot with tongs, let it drain for an instant then drop it into the warm bowl.

Immediately scatter a cup of the grated cheese and most of the ground pepper on the pasta and toss in quickly. As you mix, sprinkle over spoonfuls of hot water from the cooking pot to moisten and amalgamate the pasta and condiments—add more pepper or cheese to taste.

Serve right away while the spaghetti is very hot.