I don't know if we've mentioned it before, but we live in Chicago. One of the best parts about the city is its culinary variety. Around every corner is a delicious taco stand, pizza place, or some avant-garde restaurant serving eight types of pork belly. We love trying all of this new food, as evidenced by our expanding waistlines, but some days you just have a taste for something simple and delicious at home.
I first saw this dish on one of my favorite cooking/global adventure shows, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. If you haven't caught the show, I definitely recommend it. He's delightfully irreverent and refreshingly honest. Be warned--this show is not for kids. In one of his episodes, he visited Rome and the first dish he tried was Cacio e pepe. Described as a Roman favorite, it was one of the most unassuming dishes in the show, but immediately I knew I had to make it.
One bite will let you know why this is worth your while. And remember: with Italian cooking, the ingredients are most important (buy good cheese!).
Cacio e pepe
From our dear old Smitten Kitchen
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons butter
4 ounces finely-grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Cook spaghetti in a large pot until al dente. It will cook for 1-2 minutes later so make sure it's not completely cooked. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain pasta. Set both aside.
Heat olive oil in the same pot over high heat until almost smoking. Add pasta first, then 3/4 cup of the pasta water. Be careful when you pour in the pasta water--it will splatter and sizzle in your face if you're leaning over the pot.
Add butter, cheese, and pepper to the pot and toss ingredients together. Add more pasta water if it's not sticking together properly.
Serve immediately and don't save any for leftovers--its just not the same.