CACIO E PEPE
- 8 ounces pasta (I recommend bucatini, spaghetti, or linguine)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon freshly-cracked, coarse black pepper
- 1 1/3 cups freshly-grated* Pecorino or Parmesan cheese (or a mix)
Cook pasta in boiling generously-salted water according to package instructions, until it is just barely al dente. (Again, just want to emphasize that it’s important that your pasta water is well-salted, since this will help to flavor the sauce as well as the pasta itself. I also recommend cooking the pasta in less water than usual, so that the water is extra-starchy.)
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the pepper, and cook for 1 minute. Then ladle out about 1/2 cup of the boiling starchy pasta water, and slowly add it to the melted butter mixture. (Be careful, it will bubble up vigorously when added.) Whisk until combined.
Remove pan from heat, and let it rest for at least 3 minutes. Gradually add in the cheese, and whisk until combined.
Once the pasta is ready to go, reserve an extra 1/2 cup of starchy pasta water from the stockpot and set it aside. Strain your pasta completely, and let it rest for 2-3 minutes to cool off a tiny bit. Then add about half of your pasta to the sauce, give it a good toss, add the remaining pasta, and toss until completely combined, adding in a splash of the reserved pasta water if needed if the sauce starts to seem dry. Taste, and season with extra salt, if needed, and toss to combine.
Serve warm, garnished with extra cheese and pepper.
*Freshly-grated cheese in this recipe is a must. If you use the pre-grated cheese, it will not melt well into this cheesy sauce. So grab a block of cheese and a grater, and you should have plenty of time to make it happen while the pasta water comes to a boil.
Also, I’ve received some comments from readers who have had trouble with their cheese clumping. To help prevent that, I recommend:
Using freshly-grated cheese that is grated as finely as possible.
Using less water while cooking your pasta, so that it is extra starchy (this will help the cheese sauce come together)
Resting both your cheese sauce and cooked pasta off the heat for at least 2-3 minutes after cooking (before combining the sauce and pasta) so that they can cool off slightly, and not overheat the cheese.
If it still continues to clump, you can try tossing the cooked pasta and cheese sauce together in a separate serving bowl, to minimize the heat.