Though I haven't been to Rome, this is said to be a classic Roman pasta dish that requires a quality pecorino Romano, a salty, hard sheep's milk cheese. Cornstarch is added to overcome the tendency some readily available cheese to clump, but for best flavor imported pecorino is suggested.
Author: Christopher Kosovich
- 1½ CUPS WATER
- 2 TEASPOONS CORNSTARCH
- 6 OUNCES PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE, FINELY GRATED (1¼ CUPS), PLUS EXTRA TO SERVE
- 12 OUNCES LINGUINI OR SPAGHETTI
- 2 TABLESPOONS KOSHER SALT
- 2 TEASPOONS GROUND BLACK PEPPER, PLUS MORE TO SERVE
- Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.
- In a large saucepan, whisk the water and cornstarch until smooth. Add the pecorino and stir until evenly moistened. Set the pan over medium-low and cook, whisking constantly, until the cheese melts and the mixture comes to a gentle simmer and thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Stir the pasta and salt into the boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta very well. Return the pasta to the pot and let cool for about 1 minute.
- Pour the pecorino mixture over the pasta and toss with tongs until combined, then toss in the pepper. Let stand, tossing two or three times, until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 3 minutes. The pasta should be creamy but not loose. If needed, toss in reserved pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time to adjust the consistency. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl and serve, passing more pecorino and pepper on the side.
- For Pasta Gricia: In a 10-inch skillet over medium, cook 3 ounces finely chopped pancetta until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a paper towel–lined plate; reserve 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat. Follow the recipe for cacio e pepe, whisking the fat into the pecorino mixture before setting it aside. Stir the cooked pancetta into the pasta along with the pepper.
- Tip: Don’t use pre-shredded cheese, even if it's true pecorino Romano. And grate it on the small holes of a box grater; larger shreds won’t melt. Don’t pour the pecorino mixture onto the piping-hot, just-drained pasta; letting the pasta cool for a minute or so ensures the mixture won’t break from overheating.