A very simple recipe that I've actually seen in a few different cookbooks with almost no difference between them.

I wholly recommend this dish as a quick and very tasty one to make, one that I know I've never even come close to tiring of, and one that is easy to tweak a little to fit ones tastes. The strong pepper taste meshes very well with the flavor of the pecorino.

Spaghetti with Pecorino and Black Pepper

8 oz. Spaghetti
3/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Black Pepper to taste (about 1 Tbsp works as a good starting point)

Preparation:

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. When the spaghetti is al dente, drain quickly, and return to the pot. Add the olive oil, pecorino, and pepper, and toss well. Serve immediately, preferrably in heated bowls.

Makes 2 servings.

Garlic is also an optional ingredient - a few cloves minced up and added at the end is yummy, though definitely not necessary. Not necessary? How can I say such a thing? Because I've had it both ways, and adding garlic changes the flavor - and amazingly, may not necessarily be an improvement. Pecorino is a strong cheese, and there's also a large amount of pepper, which is also strong. The flavor of the garlic in some ways fights the pepper and cheese flavors.

To turn it into a full meal, serve with a nice salad, and fresh, warm foccacia with a mix of olive oil, pepper, and parmesan cheese for dipping.

And note that the comments below, especially the suggestions about replacing the pecorino with parmesan and adding basil, will make it into a completely different dish - as the strong taste of the pecorino blended with the pepper gives a taste that is totally different than one you could find with another cheese, especially the mild parmesan.


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*GASP*

"Garlic is also an optional ingredient - a few cloves minced up and added at the end is yummy, though definately not necessary."

Garlic Optional? Garlic Not Necessary? WHAT UNHOLY MADNESS IS THIS??

While I'm sure Saige's recipe is quite yummy, I have never for a moment thought of making it with without garlic -- the existence of which I feel is almost undenyable proof that there is a loving and benevolent God in the universe. Here's how you do it:

  1. First, finely mince your fresh garlic (never use the jarred stuff) using at least 1 clove per person, more if you and your dining companions are brave! Also, be sure to use the smaller garlic variety, as elephant garlic is not as flavorful.

  2. Now heat your olive oil in a pan over low to medium heat. This is the toughest part, because you must be very careful that you do not burn the oil: if the oil begins to smoke more than just a wee bit then you should toss it and start over again using less heat*.

  3. When you think the oil is ready, throw in a tiny chunk of garlic and watch it: if it sizzles then you're in good shape. Throw in the rest of the garlic, watch to see that it starts sizzling vigorously and then promptly remove from the heat.

  4. If the oil is hot enough (but not too hot) then the garlic will cook in about two minutes.

And that's it. The trickiest part is getting the garlic to cook but not overcook; try it a few times and you'll get the hang of it. I should also mention that instead of Pecorino you can also use Reggiano Parmasean, the undisputed lord and master of all grating cheeses. Also, a sprinkling of freshly chopped basil and perhaps some toasted pine nuts is highly recommended if you're in the mood for the flavor of fresh pesto without all the hard work. Bon Apettit!


* Oh, you laugh but let me tell you, pal: not only is temperature control crucial for maintaining the subtle and delicate flavor of olive oil, but it is preserves the unique chemical structure of all of the beneficial polyunsaturated lipids found in the oil. In fact, overheating can lead to the formation of known carcinogens and other nasty compounds that you don't want to be eating. So: keep it cool, man.

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