"I'm hungry Mommy!"... exclaimed my 10 year old. I was distracted and didn't realize it was lunch time. Out of bread, the teenagers in my house are like wild animals, I quickly thought of whipping up some pasta. I offered my hungry child some Macaroni and cheese only to realize, you guessed it, the teenagers have also cleared the cheddar and left only a wedge of Pecorinio Romano. I am assuming the original Roman dish had equally humble beginnings. A quick meal with only 3 ingredients.
It may sound easy, spaghetti, cheese and pepper, but believe me that sometimes the easiest things are the most complex. The combination of the starch in the pasta's cooking water is the key to this sauce.
I am a bit naughty and throw a clove of garlic into my extra virgin olive oil and pepper mixture. That is not authentic....I know, I know...but I LOVE GARLIC! A few recipes just toast the peppercorns or coursely ground pepper and add the pasta water without any oils, such as olive oil or butter. Again, I am guilty and use both. My little additions do not alter the original so much and really enrich it. Since my kids don't care for large pieces of pepper, I just use my normal kitchen pepper grinder, it is a little less course than the original recipe, but a bit more palatable for the little ones. Better yet, it was on the table in less than 10 minutes.
Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe ❦ Spaghetti with Cheese and Pepper
400 g. Spaghetti, good quality not store brand please
200 g. Pecorinio Romano cheese, finely grated
2 tbsp. Freshly cracked black pepper
2 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
My personal additions
1 tsp. Butter (optional)
1 clove of garlic (optional)
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once boiling salt generously and add spaghetti. Cook according to package directions for al dente.
2. While pasta cooks, heat extra virgon. olive oil in a wide frying pan, on medium heat.
(add garlic clove if using at this point)
Let pepper infuse oil.
3. Add a ladleful of the pasta cooking water to olive oil in pan.
(discard garlic clove if you added it)
4. Add half the cheese to the frying pan with oil and whisk vigoursly until it resembles a smooth sauce, add a little more pasta water if needed.
(add butter if using)
5. When pasta is cooked, lift it from water with pasta spoon and add it to frying pan. Stir to coat with cheese mixture. Add remaining cheese and another ladle of water. Stir vigously on a low heat until all pasta strands are coated with sauce and cheese melted.
6. Serve with lots of extra Pecorino Romano and freshly cracked black pepper.