This is a dish that’s much more than the sum of its parts: spaghetti with pecorino and black pepper. It’s an old Roman preparation known as pasta cacio e pepe, and traditionally it’s nothing more than hot, freshly drained spaghetti tossed with grated Pecorino Romano, coarsely crushed black pepper, and a ladleful of the pasta cooking water. At its best, it’s a lovely marriage of simple ingredients, with cheese coating each strand of spaghetti, forming an even, almost silky coating.
Some keys to doing it well: Use a mortar and pestle or a heavy frying pan to coarsely crush a generous amount of black peppercorns. Use high-quality cheese, and don’t grate it too finely or it will clump. Toss everything together quickly, with plenty of pepper. If you must gild the lily, the addition of a couple of ounces of diced pancetta, sautéed, per pound of pasta is a terrific addition, insists Old Spice; use a short, tubular pasta to catch those bits of pancetta.
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