Cacio e pepe for the win. Photograph by Douglas Merriam.
For this traditional spaghetti with black pepper and cheese, chef Kathleen Crook recommends grating your Parmesan rather than using the pre-shredded variety, which will not melt properly.
6 ounces fresh or dried spaghetti (fresh will cook faster)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon freshly cracked pepper
1 cup Parmesan, freshly grated, divided
Red chile flakes, to taste
Makes 4–6 servings
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with a good amount of salt. Add pasta and stir. Cook pasta in boiling water until it is about two minutes shy of al dente. Drain noodles, reserving ¾ cup water.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula, until lightly charred.
Add ½ cup of reserved pasta water and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter. Reduce heat to low, add ¾ cup Parmesan and red chile flakes, and gently toss.
Remove pan from heat. Using tongs, toss pasta until butter and cheese have coated the noodles, cheese is melted, and pasta is still slightly al dente. Add more pasta water if it seems dry. Put pasta in warm bowls, top with remaining cheese, and serve.