- 8 ounces spaghetti (about half a box)
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 ounces Pecorino Romano
- kosher salt
- olive oil or butter
The popularity of cacio a pepe was born in the 1950s and '60s in small osterias in Italy. The innkeepers would serve a very dry version of the dish with abundant black pepper and abundant salty Pecorino cheese in order to entice the patrons to drink more wine. It’s only later that the creamy version was invented by Italian chefs served in restaurants.
Technique Tip: When salting water for pasta, season the water with kosher salt until it tastes like a soup, not like the ocean.
In a large heavy bottom pot on high heat, bring water to a rapid boil.2.
Season the water with kosher salt until it tastes like a soup not like the ocean.3.
Add the pasta to the water and stir. Follow the instructions on the box for the most accurate cook time.4.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet on medium low heat, add the black pepper and toast to release the essential oils, about 30 seconds.5.
Once the black pepper is aromatic, add the butter or olive oil and swirl to combine melting the butter slowly being careful not allow it to brown.6.
Set aside off the heat.7.
When the pasta is almost finished cooking, approximately 8 minutes, ladle 4 ounces of pasta into into the skillet; reserve. Immediately drain the pasta through a colander, reserving an additional 2 to 3 ounces of the water.8.
Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, return the skillet to medium high heat and agitate the spaghetti aggressively with a pair of tongs, pasta fork or tweezers. This action will release the starch from the pasta to make it creamy.9.
While stirring and tossing, sprinkle in about half of the Pecorino Romano and continue to combine. If the pasta is tight or dry, add a splash of the reserved pasta water.10.
Plate the spaghetti on a warm serving platter and garnish with the remaining Pecorino Romano and additional black pepper if you like it spicy.11.