To serve four
8g whole black pepper
150g Pecorino Romano cheese
400g spaghetti or linguine
2 tbsp sea salt
Great the pecorino cheese very finely, the finer the better and set aside in a small bowl at room temperature. Bring a medium pot of water to an intense boil. Generously season with sea salt and add pasta. Here it is important that you use less water than usual, this will result in a higher starch content in the pasta water, which is essential.
Heat a skillet or deep walled frying pan to medium heat add the whole peppercorn and toast lightly for 2-3 minutes. Remove pepper corns and crush them coarsely in a mortar or pepper mill. Keep the frying pan warm on low heat, you will need it again shortly.
4 minutes into cooking the pasta remove a cup of pasta water and set aside. Let it cool down for 2-3 minutes, then gradually add around 6 tbsp to the grated pecorino, mixing it thoroughly into thick creamy consistency, set aside.
2 minutes before it is cooked al dente drain the pasta while keeping some of the starchy water. Add the pasta together with the crushed pepper and a cup of pasta water into the frying pan at medium to high heat. Keep stirring the pasta intensely until you can see that starchy water is starting to evaporate, thicken and emulsify, this should take around 2-3 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and continue stirring, allowing it to cool down slightly. After 2 minutes add the pecorino mix while continuing to stir. The sauce should have a creamy even consistency. Add a little more pasta water if needed. Remove from pan, grate a some more cheese on top and serve immediately.
It’s all about timing, temperature, and the all-important starchy pasta water. If the cheese clumps, it’s because it was not grated fine enough, or the temperature of the pasta was too high.