Cacio e pepe (literally “cheese and pepper”) is having a moment–it’s 2016’s unofficial pasta by some accounts. Though I thought I’d tasted and tried to make just about every macaroni dish imaginable, this one somehow slipped past me until now. It seems almost too simple–a short ingredients list and instructions that are basically cook pasta, melt cheese, add pepper–I decided to do some research. The dish is Roman, which I knew, but dates back to as early as 1200 AD! I stumbled upon this great explanatory article and experimented from there. The results? The hype is real. It’s salty, savory, cheese-coated carb perfection.
6 ounces (4 cups) Pecorino Romano cheese, very finely grated on the smallest holes of a box grater, plus more for serving
Heat 3/4 cup olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add black pepper and cook until fragrant and pepper starts to sizzle, about 1 minute. Turn off heat.
Place spaghetti in a pot and just cover with water (as little as necessary). Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to separate. Cook until al dente (about 2 minutes less than what the box describes).
Add ½ cup pasta water (it should be very starchy/cloudy) to the skillet with the olive oil/pepper mixture. Using tongs, add spaghetti (there is no need to drain well).
Add cheese and remaining olive oil to the skillet. Stir to melt cheese. Add more pasta water or oil until the sauce coats the spaghetti. Season with salt and black pepper and serve immediately, topped with extra grated cheese and black pepper.