An aerial view of plated spaghetti noodles sprinkled with pepper and parmesan cheese.


  • Salt (about 2 heaping tablespoons per gallon of water)
  • 12 ounces dried spaghetti (pr bicantini, linguini or angel hair)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 9-10 turns of ground black pepper from a pepper mill, or less or more to taste
  • 4 ounces Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano or Parmesan, finely grated on a microplaner


  1. In a large pot, bring heavily salted water to a boil. Add pasta, stir occasionally, and cook until al dente.
  2. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add olive oil to coat the bottom. When it shimmers, add the pepper to the olive oil and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta cooking water into the pan, increase the heat and let it simmer — this will encourage an emulsion to form.
  3. Use tongs to add the cooked pasta directly from the cooking water to the hot olive oil mixture and coat the noodles in the sauce, then sprinkle in all but a handful of the cheese. Use tongs to lift and toss the pasta, adding more pasta water if needed to create a creamy sauce that clings to the pasta without clumping. Taste and adjust salt as needed. Garnish with the remaining cheese and more coarsely ground pepper. Serve immediately.

Recipe by Marcia Smart of Smart in the Kitchen.

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