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Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

Goethe published an account of his travels in Italy between 1786 and 1788 called “Italian Journey”. In it he writes of the pasta he encountered in Naples: “As a rule, it is simply cooked in water and seasoned with grated cheese”. This is, in fact, the prevalent way that pasta used to be served in southern Italy. Today the dish has become a Roman specialty. Some people swear that it must be made with the sharper aged Pecorino Romano, while others insist a younger pecorino is called for. I personally like using a medium aged pecorino, which melts more easily and is better suited to the generous amount of black pepper used here.

Ingredients:

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2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound pecorino cheese (use a medium aged cheese such as Crosta Rossa di Pienza)
1 pound spaghetti

Tip

As soon as the pasta is in the serving bowl, toss it vigorously with the cheese to prevent it forming a lump at the bottom of the bowl.

Directions:

  1. Fill a pot for the pasta with about 6 quarts of water, place over high heat, and bring to a boil.
  2. Put the olive oil, 1 ? teaspoons salt, and pepper in a small saucepan and place over very low heat.
  3. Grate the cheese using the medium-sized holes of a grater and put it in the bowl you’ll be serving the pasta in.
  4. When the water for the pasta is boiling, add about 2 tablespoons salt, add the spaghetti, and stir until all the strands are submerged. Cook until al dente.
  5. A few minutes before the pasta is done, add 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the bowl with the cheese. Stir vigorously until a creamy paste is formed. When the pasta is ready, drain well and transfer to the serving bowl. Toss very well until the pasta is coated with the cheese. Add the hot olive oil with the salt and pepper, toss again, and serve at once.

From Giuliano Hazan's Thirty Minute Pasta by Giuliano Hazan, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2009

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Historic 16th Century Villa Giona in the gastronomic heart of northern Italy