Less is more in this elemental Roman pasta dish, which takes its spiciness from cracked black pepper toasted in oil. We featured this pasta recipe as part of writer Anya von Bremzen's ode to Rome, "Eternal Pleasures," in our April 2010 issue.
Cheese and Pepper Pasta (Cacio e Pepe)
Less is more in this elemental Roman pasta dish, which takes its spiciness from cracked black pepper toasted in oil.
Yield: serves 4
Kosher salt, to taste
1 lb. pasta, preferably tonnarelli or spaghetti
4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
3⁄4 cup finely grated Cacio de Roma
Bring a 6-qt. pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta; cook until al dente, 8–10 minutes; reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain pasta. Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12" skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add pepper; cook until fragrant, 1–2 minutes. Ladle 3⁄4 cup pasta water into skillet; bring to a boil. Using tongs, transfer pasta to skillet; spread it evenly. Sprinkle 3⁄4 cup each Pecorino Romano and Cacio de Roma over pasta; toss vigorously to combine until sauce is creamy and clings to the pasta without clumping, about 2 minutes, adding some pasta water if necessary. Transfer to 4 plates and sprinkle with remaining Pecorino and more pepper.
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Pairing Note A medium-bodied sangiovese, like the 2005 Brancaia Tre Toscana, will complement this dish's peppery notes. —David Rosengarten