With only 5 ingredients, this cacio e pepe recipe is the Italian version of macaroni and cheese, and the ultimate pantry staple answer to, "What do we have to eat?"
Add 4 cups water to a large pot or high sided skillet with the pasta and salt and bring to a boil. Cook for two minutes less than the package instructions direct so the noodles are still firm with a bit of snap, and chewy.
While the pasta is cooking, heat another large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, butter and freshly ground black pepper. Stir until the butter melts and the pepper becomes fragrant.
When the pasta is 2-3 minutes from being done cooking, carefully add in 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the olive oil pepper mixture (it will bubble and splatter). Add another 1/2 cup of the pasta water and stir or toss the pan to combine.
Use tongs to transfer the pasta to the oil, butter, and black pepper sauce, reserving the rest of the original pasta water. Don't worry about completely draining the water from the pasta, it will just add to the creaminess. Continue cooking the pasta in the oil and pasta water combo for 1-2 more minutes or until the pasta is cooked al denté stirring and tossing so each strand is coated. Add more pasta water if needed to resemble a sauce, stirring to thicken and coat. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Quickly toss the pasta and cheese (avoid stirring vigorously or the cheese will get stringy and clump), adding more of the reserved pasta water as the cheese melts and loosens up, to make a lush, cheesy sauce. Add more cheese if desired. The sauce should be creamy and light, and coat each of the pasta noodles.
Taste for seasoning and add more pepper if desired. Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley for color if you'd like. Serve hot.
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