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Cooking the Book: Pecorino and Black Pepper Pasta

2012 September 26
by Gayle

It’s kind of weird when something you know how to makeĀ  but always kind of forget about or just don’t remember to make when you are standing in front of an open fridge complaining about how there’s nothing to eat even though all the ingredients are right there in front of your face comes up in a cookbook. Just the smack upside the head I needed, and a big hit with Mr. Kitchenette.

Pecorino Romano is a killer hard, salty sheep’s cheese (pecora is sheep in Italian, so, Roman sheep cheese, to be exact) that could very well replace good old Parmigiano Reggiano for you if you haven’t had it before. Watch out of just “Romano” cheese, which is some kind of U.S. cow’s milk cheese that is, frankly, rather bland. If you can only find it pregrated, don’t stress about the instructions on coarse/fine grating; I used all finely grated and can safely say it still tastes awesome.

The Good

This one is quick and easy and it’s highly likely you have all the ingredients lurking in your kitchen unnoticed — perfect for a night when you don’t actually feel like cooking and/or going to the grocery store. And while it will never replace a silky Alfredo in my heart, it is a lot easier to pull together in a pinch (and, without the butter and a lot less cream, probably at least a little healthier while still getting your cheesey pasta on).

The Bad

As delicious as it is, this dish can be a little heavy and a little one-note.

The Leftovers

No literal leftovers to report.

In the photo below, you may be able to make out the giant bowl of caprese salad — in this case, a bowl of diced tomatoes and mozzarella tossed with piles of fresh basil and laced with good olive oil, balsamic vinegar and little salt and pepper. Since the Pecorino pasta dish can be a little cheese- and pasta-centric, this acidic side was a welcome relief for the palate (even though, yes, it also includes more cheese). You’re probably going to want some kind of salad with this, one with a non-creamy dressing.

Spaghetti with Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper

from Cooking for Two, 2011

Serves 2

High-quality ingredients are essential in this dish; most important is imported Pecorino Romano — not the bland domestic cheese labeled “Romano.” Use the small holes on a box grater to grate the cheese finely and the large holes to grate is coarsely. Those we usually recommend cooking pasta in lots of water, this recipe is an exception; the starchy pasta cooking water is necessary for the consistency of the sauce. Be sure to measure the amount of water and stir the pasta often during cooking to prevent clumping.


3 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, 2 ounces finely grated (about 1 cup) and 1 ounce coarsely grated (about 1/2 cup) (see note)

6 ounces spaghetti

1 Tablespoon heavy cream

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 teaspoon pepper


Place finely grated Pecorino in medium bowl.

Bring 1 quart water to biol in large pot. Add pasta and salt and cook, stirring often to prevent clumping, until al dente. Drain pasta in collander set over bowl, reserving cooking water, and return pasta to pot.

Slowly whisk 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking warter into finely grated Pecorino until smoooth. Whisk in cream, oil and pepper. Gradually pour cheese mixture over pasta, tossing to coat. Let pasta rest for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing frequently, adjusting sauce consistency with remaining pasta cooking water as desired. Serve with coarsely grated Pecorino.

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