"I only really fully explored the glory of this dish in lockdown, when everyone was looking to their cupboards, often with blank faces, for inspiration due to food shortages everywhere. I did a brief video online, and most people jumped in claiming that isn’t a traditional “Cacio Pepe”. It’s not; classically there is no butter, garlic or lemon, but when have they never made anything less delicious?! It really encapsulates the brilliance of Italian cooking: the sheer deliciousness through simplicity and care.
The pasta should also be drained using tongs, not drained in a colander. You really need to cook the pasta in the sauce for a good 2-3 minutes. This will completely change the dynamic of the dish; rather than being two distinct entities, the sauce should almost permeate the pasta and coat it. Not unlike a risotto, you are finishing it in the pan, reducing the sauce and adding some cooking water until you have a lovely amalgam. This dish is so good for Winter when you crave something hot, satisfying and savoury: better still, just 6 ingredients and you’re all done in 15 mins!"
250g Dried spaghetti (Ideally Il Fiore Del Parco - Spaghettoni)
60g Unsalted butter
1 Garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp Black pepper, ground in a pestle and mortar
100g Pecorino (or parmesan), finely grated, some extra for scattering on top
¼ Lemon, juice of
- Have a large pan of water boiling with 1 tbsp. salt per 2 litres water. This is slightly less than normal but you add a good amount of this into the sauce so you don’t want it too salty given the amount of salty cheese.
- Cook the spaghetti in the boiling salted water until just al dente, stirring occasionally with tongs so it doesn’t stick and cooks evenly.
- In a large sauté pan, heat the butter over a medium heat; once it starts to bubble, add the garlic and pepper and cook for about 30 secs. You just want to toast the pepper and take the raw edge off the garlic, nothing more.
- Transfer 2 small ladles or approx. 200ml cooking water into the butter, then using tongs, transfer the pasta into the pan.
- Bring to a boil over a high heat then add the cheese and leave for a few seconds to melt slightly, then cook over a high heat for about 1-2 mins so the water reduces and forms a rich emulsion. There should now be a cheese glaze to the pasta: not dry but not wet, just coating it.
- Add the lemon juice then remove from the heat and check seasoning. It should not taste of lemon, but the acidity and freshness should just temper the richness.
- Spoon into bowls with kitchen tongs, evenly distributing the pasta and the sauce (which should cling to it). As you place the spaghetti in the bowls, rotate your wrist to give a nice even swirl and shape to the spaghetti.
- I like to serve this with a little extra cheese and pepper scattered on top.