When life gets busy and I’m travelling in the fast lane, I definitely do not want to spend a minute more in the kitchen than is absolutely necessary. Still wanting to eat beautiful, delicious food but never compromising on the quality of ingredients used, I turn to simple classics.
Like this Roman specialty. Cacio e pepe. Or more simply put, cheese and pepper. Minimalistic. The simplest of all spaghetti sauces. Made with just four staple pantry ingredients. It’s the sort of recipe countless generations of time poor Italian nonna’s would have brought to the table. To my mind it’s most likely the original mac ‘n’ cheese. A dish all the family loves to eat.
Cacio e Pepe
500gm good quality dried spaghetti
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for finishing
2 cups (90 grams) finely grated pecorino, divided
MELT butter in a large heavy skillet over low heat, then add freshly ground pepper (coarsely ground is best). Stir for a minute or so until until pepper is toasted and fragrant. Remove from heat and set whilst the spaghetti cooks.
COOK spaghetti in a large pot of well salted boiling water following packet directions until al dente. Drain, reserving a scant cup of the cooking water.
ADD ¾ cup of the cooking water to the pepper infused butter mixture, return skillet to the stove and simmer over low heat for a few minutes until well combined.
ADD spaghetti to the skillet with 1 ½ cups of finely grated pecorino. Toss with tongs until the cheese has melted to create a creamy sauce that clings to the strands of spaghetti. Add a little more cooking water if sauce seems dry, continue to cook a little longer if it seems wet.
DIVIDE among bowls to serve, top with remaining pecorino and serve very hot.