The classic Roman pasta dish cacio e pepe, literally cheese and pepper, is as simple as it gets as far as ingredients go, but getting the cheese creamy right can take some practice.
The Roman version must be made with Pecorino Romano cheese but you can replace it with parmesan or use a blend of the two. The traditional pasta is a long thin square shape known as tonnarelli but spaghetti works well and is often used.
To crush the black peppercorns, wrap them in plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and pound them with a heavy object like a rolling pin, a meat tenderizer or even a hammer. This will produce a coarser black pepper. A pepper mill will also work but the black pepper will not be as strong.
Cheese and black pepper
- 50 grams of pecorino, plus more to top the final dish, grated
- Several black peppercorns, crushed, or freshly ground black pepper
- Coarse salt for the pasta water
- 200 grams spaghetti
- Boil a pot of water, add a handful of coarse salt, and cook the spaghetti.
- Just before the spaghetti finishes cooking, place a ladleful of hot pasta water in a serving bowl and swish to warm the bowl. Pour the water out.
- When the spaghetti is done cooking, drain it and add it to the warm serving bowl. Make sure to save some of the pasta water.
- Add the cheese and some black pepper.
- Stir vigorously until the cheese becomes creamy. Add a couple of tablespoons of pasta water if needed.
- Plate and top with more grated pecorino cheese and black pepper.