There are many, many ways to make Spaghetti with cheese and black pepper–cacio et pepi. It’s an exercise in statistics, almost: how many combinations are there of pasta, cheese and pepper? A lot. People add butter. They add oil. They add butter AND oil. They add none of those interlopers.
I used to use a Barefoot Contessa version, which called for a pretty specific type of pasta, which seems odd given that this is one of the easiest things you’ll ever make. I have found a new version which I like a lot better.
My sister bought me the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for Christmas (we do our gift exchange early, because she’s a nurse and works crazy schedules, and I have a LOT of stuff to take to the parents’ Christmas Eve. So it’s easier to do exchanges now.) I looove the cookbook, and I found lots of recipes on the blog that seem delectable. This was one of them.
Spaghetti with cheese and black pepper
very slightly adapted from www.smittenkitchen.com
1/4 c. olive oil
1 lb. dried spaghetti
2 tbsp. butter
4 oz. pecornio romano cheese, finely grated
1 1/2 tsp. black pepper (I like it barely cracked so that you get the really peppery taste)
salt (optional, except in the cooking water. YOU MUST SALT THE COOKING WATER!!!!)
Cook spaghetti in well-salted (see?!) water to your al dente tastes in a large pot. Drain spaghetti, reserving 1 1/2 c. of cooking water (You may or may not use all this).
In a large skillet *, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add drained spaghetti and one cup of reserved pasta water. Add butter, cheese and ground pepper and toss. Taste, adding more pasta water, cheese, pepper or salt to taste.
Serve immediately with reserved cheese and an extra grind of pepper.
(*Smitten Kitchen has you make all this in one pot, which you could do. In that case, you’ll clean out the pot, then heat the oil in it. Recipe proceeds as follows)