We took a recent trip to Rome and fell promptly in love with everything.
Including the pasta.
I've never been a huge pasta fan, but this one really caught my attention and now, I have to say, I am kind of addicted. I've made it three times in two weeks.
Every guide book for this eternal city mentions this dish, which the city is well known for.
This recipe takes some liberties, so don't be yelling about adding butter, which is not typical and "OH MAMA MIA" while clutching your heart and all that.
Milan is known for butter and cream, not Rome.
It's my house, and I'm not Italian and I can do what I want.
It's your house, you can do what you want.
Also, the lemon zest is not traditional, but I love lemon, and thought this added a little zing.
We all could use a little zing, you know? Even your Mama could use a little zing.
So, I timed myself while making this dish because it was SO DANG easy.
After the water was boiling (I didn't time that part...) it took me 8 minutes to get this on the table. Even if you have to stop and grate your cheese, (you can do that while the water is boiling), you are in for a 15 minute dinner at the most. Nice, huh?
Plus, yummy and comforting, and cheap. Cheap is good, save your cash for more trips.
Serves 2-4 (2 as a main dish, and 4 as a pasta course)
8 ounces thick spaghetti or bucatini
4 Tbsp butter, softened
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 teaspoons freshly cracked pepper (use a mortar and pestle or the coarsest setting on a grinder), plus more for garnish
1/4 cup Asiago, or Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1 small lemon, zested (optional)
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until very al dente, about 3-4 minutes. It will still be very firm. Reserve 1 1/2 cup pasta water before draining.
Transfer pasta to a 12-inch skillet (preferably nonstick). Add butter and 1/2 - 3/4 cup pasta water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. The heat helps the starch in the water meld with the fat from the butter, which prevents the cheese from becoming stringy in the finished dish.
Reduce heat to low, and mix in Parmesan (retain the Asiago for later!) and cracked pepper. It will melt into the buttery water, creating a sauce as the pasta finishes cooking. Add more pasta water if it starts to look too dry or stingy with the sauce. Zest the lemon right into the mixture, and stir.
Toss pasta with tongs to thoroughly coat it with sauce and keep tossing while keeping it at a gentle simmer just until cheese melts and sauce thickens slightly, about 1 minute.
Remove from heat, then stir in Asiago. (Always add Asiago or Pecorino off direct heat; it clumps when cooked.).
If pasta looks dry, toss it with a bit more pasta water until it has a glossy coating. Don’t worry about using all the pasta water that you reserved, but don’t skimp on this step either. I like it a bit more saucy than too dry and sticky/stodgy with cheese.
Divide between 2 warm bowls. Garnish with more cracked pepper. Serve immediately.