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Pasta with Cacio e Lots of Pepe (& Lemon Zest)

This recipe is from the amazing Nikkitha Bakshani, a long-standing Nourished Communities customer, novelist and food writer. Her book, Ghost Chilli, is out July 2024 from Fleet / Little Brown. She writes a newsletter called Table of Content, which you can subscribe to here.




  • 180g dried pasta, or 250g fresh pasta (not filled pasta)
  • 45g-65g finely grated Pecorino Romano*
  • Zest of a lemon (or two if you want more of this flavour)
  • Butter, q.b.*
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, q.b.
  • Pasta water, q.b.

*1/4 of the weight of your pasta is the ideal proportion; you could also use Parmesan (convenient but not authentic, still very good)
*q.b. is a very convenient acronym that stands for ‘quanto basta’ and means ‘as much as you want’

Serves 2, easily scales up



1. Set a pot of water to boil. Do not salt until it is boiling. When it’s time, add 2 tablespoons of salt and cook the pasta for 2-3 minutes if fresh, until it floats to the top. For dried pasta, cook it for 2-3 minutes less than the cooking time stated on the box.

2. Meanwhile, grate your Pecorino Romano, and the lemon zest over it. Mix together.

3. In a separate frying pan or saute pan, over low-medium heat, add enough butter to coat the bottom. Grate as much pepe as your heart desires over the butter (the more, the better). Add a ladle of the pasta cooking water to the butter and let it come to a boil. Then add the pasta, directly from the pot, to the butter-water mix using tongs (for long pasta) or a spider/slotted spoon (for short). (If you use a colander to drain that’s fine but just reserve the pasta water somewhere.) Gradually, and I mean gradually, add the Pecorino-lemon zest mixture. Check the sauce level as you add. If it's not looking saucy enough, add more pasta water, one ladle at a time, and keep mixing until you're done with the cheese-lemon zest mixture and have the texture you want. 
4. Taste: Add salt or more pepper if needed. If it’s too salty, add some lemon juice. If it’s too al dente, cook it for a bit longer, adding more pasta water and cheese (or butter) to make it more saucy. If it’s well past al dente, take it off heat immediately and adjust the seasoning on your plate.

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