Can you tell I like pasta? This recipe is loosely inspired by cacio e pepe with a creamier, lemonier (is that a word?) twist. Italians: don’t worry, when I make real cacio e pepe, I do NOT add any cream, butter, or mascarpone. I made it in a recent TikTok video, which you can find here:
This recipe is super simple requires no more time than the spaghetti needs to boil.
- Abundant kosher salt (to salt the pasta water)
- 1/2 pound dry spaghetti
- 2 oz freshly grated pecorino romano cheese (parmigiano reggiano is fine, but pecorino romano has a better flavor for this dish)
- 1-2 lemons
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ~2 tablespoons cold butter
- ~3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese, cream cheese, or heavy cream
- Read the whole recipe through before starting, or watch the video. Otherwise, it might be confusing.
- Heat a pot of water over a high flame. Meanwhile, grate your pecorino romano cheese in a bowl. Zest your lemon and add the zest to the pecorino cheese. Juice your lemon in a separate bowl.
- When your water is at a rolling boil, generously salt it and add the pasta. Cook as per the package instructions, subtracting ~3 minutes from the al dente cook time. For example, if the package says "cook 11-13 minutes", cook 9-10 mins. When the pasta has about 3 minutes left, get a dry skillet going over medium heat and continue to the next step.
- Use a ladle to add a couple tablespoons of hot pasta water to your pecorino-lemon zest mixture. Mix it well with a spoon or fork to dissolve it.
- Crack some pepper into the dry skillet and let it toast briefly. Add a couple ladlefuls of hot pasta water to the skillet with the pepper (about 2/3 cup). Add in the butter and continually shake the pan to let the butter slowly melt in and emulsify.
- Add the cooked pasta to the skillet (I prefer to use tongs over draining it). Add the pecorino-lemon-water mixture into the skillet and the mascarpone. Mix everything really well and let the pasta simmer in the sauce for the last minute of its cook time. Add more pecorino cheese and keep agitating the pasta if it is not emulsifying.
- Finally, turn off the heat and add in the reserved lemon juice. Mix well. Enjoy with more black pepper on top!
Jeremy is a student at Cornell University double majoring in Spanish and Italian with significant coursework in classes such as nutrition, food science and culinary science. He has years of experience as a home cook, working at a local bakery, and teaching cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. After starting a TikTok account in March 2020 while quarantined in his childhood home, Jeremy’s presence grew to over 1.5 million followers in the first 6 months. During that time, he was featured in People Magazine, Fox News, BBC Radio, BuzzFeed, Tasty, Spoon University, and USA Today, among other media outlets.