I have fond memories of cacio e pepe: eating it in a small Roman restaurant on a sweltering day in May. I was studying in Florence and decided to hop on a train after my Monday morning class to have my own little Roman holiday. After tossing some coins in the Trevi fountain and marveling at the architectural splendor of the Pantheon, my roommate and I found ourselves being seated for lunch with a carafe of wine at the table before we could say grazie signore. Cacio e pepe, the signature Roman pasta dish of pecorino and black pepper, reminds me that on my worst days I can transform three ingredients into a dish that takes me back to one of my favorite cities.
Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
1 box of spaghetti or bucatini
¾ cup grated Pecorino Romano
¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
About 2 cups of cooking water
- Bring a pot of liberally salted water to a boil. Add your spaghetti or bucatini and cook until just under aldente (it will reach aldente perfection later).
- Strain pasta, reserving about 2 cups of the starchy liquid. Return noodles to the pot and alternate adding shredded cheese and pasta water until your desired consistency.
- Be sure to toss while adding the cheese and water to emulsify the sauce. If it’s too creamy, add more water. Too loose, add more cheese.
- Once it’s creamy and perfect, divide into bowls and add as much freshly cracked black peppers as you desire.