Our take on this simple Roman pasta dish is packed with cheesy goodness and a peppery kick.
Add Pecorino to medium bowl. Set colander in large bowl and place in sink.
In large pot, bring water to boil over medium-high heat. Add pasta and salt and use tongs to bend pasta until submerged in water. Cook, stirring frequently, until pasta is al dente (tender but still a bit chewy), 10 to 12 minutes. Turn off heat.
Use oven mitts to drain pasta in colander set in bowl, reserving pasta cooking water in bowl. Remove colander. Pour 1½ cups cooking water into 2-cup liquid measuring cup and discard remaining water. Add pasta to now-empty bowl.
Slowly pour 1 cup reserved pasta cooking water into medium bowl with Pecorino, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth. Add cream, oil, and pepper and whisk until well combined.
Cacio e pepe is a classic Roman dish that is deceptively simple. Just a handful of ingredients come together to make a dish that tastes sophisticatedly complex.
For an ultrasmooth sauce, we made a few nontraditional tweaks to our recipe. First, we cut the amount of water for boiling the pasta. This ups the amount of starch in the water, which, when added to the Pecorino, helps prevent the cheese from clumping. We also added a bit of heavy cream—it contains molecules called lipoproteins that encourage the proteins and the fat in our sauce to bond together instead of breaking into greasy clumps. Finally, a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, which often has a peppery flavor, highlights the pepe (Italian for “pepper”) in this iconic dish.