When I was little, my mom would sometimes make me “Buttered Spaghetti,” which was exactly what is sounds like. It was such a Plain Jane meal, probably only made when there was no food in the house, but I loved it. The woman didn’t call me Noodle for nothing!
Now, 26 years old and still a pasta lover, I’m happy to report that there is a grown up version of the dish called Cacio e Pepe. The fancy Italian name literally means cheese and pepper, which are the two additional ingredients. Take my childhood favorite and mix in some Pecorino Romano and freshly ground black pepper, and there you have it.
Interestingly, it took enjoying Cacio e Pepe at two different restaurants and then some for me to make that connection. The first time I had it was at Franny’s, my favorite restaurant in Brooklyn. Our waiter billed it as a grown up mac and cheese and I was delighted by how simple but delicious the dish was. More recently, I ordered Cacio e Pepe at Eataly‘s pasta restaurant. I marveled at the perfect al dente spaghetti and the subtle kick that came from the coarse black pepper. But it wasn’t until I was faced with an empty fridge and pantry one night, that I thought to whip up the dish myself. And as I mixed up the ingredients, the heavenly aroma of butter and pasta reminded me of my mom in the kitchen, preparing buttered spaghetti for an excited little girl.
- 1/2 lb dried spaghetti
- 1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese (freshly grated is ideal, but I made use of the of ground stuff I had in the fridge, from Bklyn Larder)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving some of the cooking water.
- Return pasta and cooking water to the pot and place over low heat. Add remaining ingredients and stir until cheese and butter have melted and formed a creamy sauce, about 5 minutes. Season with salt, and serve with additional cheese.