Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Spaghetti with Pecorino Cheese and Ground Black Pepper

Spaghetti cacio e pepe

The origins of this classic dish are disputed. It is popularly considered of Roman origin but both the Sicilians and the Neapolitans claim that it was in fact invented either on the streets of Palermo or Naples. There may be some truth in the claims. The mangiamaccheroni of Naples would have eaten their pasta simply, straight from the cauldron and certainly without the addition of tomato sauce (which came later). Pecorino cheese was common to the city and it may well have been added to the pasta as a dressing for flavour, as might pepper.

Wherever it came from, this dish is as simple as dried pasta gets (so easy, in fact, it can hardly be called a recipe!). There are variations on the dish. Some advocate not using any extra virgin olive oil. Others suggest using an equal mix of pecorino cheese and parmesan. In the north of Italy a similar dish is made using butter instead of oil and just parmesan cheese. Personally I prefer the following recipe but that’s just a question of taste.

Serves 4
Preparation time:  5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

320g spaghetti
250g semi-mature pecorino cheese, grated
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook until just al dente. Once the pasta is cooked, drain, reserving a small amount (a few tablespoons) of the cooking water. Place the pasta back in the pot and add the water, the olive oil, the cheese and plenty of black pepper. Toss well and serve immediately (for a truly authentic Neapolitan experience, try eating with your hands!).

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