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This is a very basic and trendy Roman pasta dish on many menus today. It is literally a minimalist “cheese and pepper” recipe; yes, that’s right, no garlic or onions. The simplest recipes are sometimes the most difficult to get right. You want to create a creamy, emulsified sauce that coats each strand of pasta with flavor. When made right, it is incredible!

3 important guidelines:

1. Grate cheese finely

2. Use two pans – one to cook the pasta, the other to build the sauce. Keep the sauce at low heat.

3. Transfer the pasta when cooked using tongs to the sauce skillet, rather than draining pasta in a colander.

Ingredients: Serving for 2

Salt (preferably kosher salt)

6-8 oz of pasta (spaghetti or bucatini)

3 tbsp of unsalted butter

1 tsp of freshly cracked pepper

3/4 cup of grated Grana Padana or Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup of grated Pecorino cheese

For added interest: garnish with fresh parsley and fresh ricotta cheese – not typically served with these added ingredients.


1. Bring 3 quarts water to a boil. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender – very al dente. Drain, reserving ¾ cup pasta cooking water.

2. In a skillet, melt 2 Tbsp. butter over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.

3. Add ½ cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter. Reduce heat to low and add Grana Padana, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Remove pan from heat; add Pecorino, stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is al dente. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.) You may want to add a small amount of evo for flavor and to coat the pasta further with the sauce. Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve.


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janet vitiello
janet vitiello
Feb 18
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

A very popular menu item these days.

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