Spaghetti with cacio e pepe (Pecorino Romano and black pepper) is a classic Roman dish, and one of the simplest pasta dishes around. But it can be a little confounding until you get the hang of it—that Pecorino has a nasty habit of clumping up if you don't do it right!
There are a few secrets to getting smooth, creamy, flavor-packed results. The first is to use a small amount of water to cook your spaghetti. Not only does this help the pasta cook faster (a bonus if you're cooking this in a semi-inebriated, late-night state, as you should be), it also makes for starchier pasta cooking water, which is what helps the cheese and fat emulsify into a creamy sauce.
The second is to bloom the black pepper in olive oil. Most recipes have you grind black pepper on at the end. Letting it gently sizzle in olive oil at the beginning of cooking helps it develop a more complex aroma and infuses that olive oil with flavor, which subsequently coats each strand of spaghetti.
Check out the video below for full instructions.
And, if you want to learn more about the science and development of this recipe, you can read all about it here.