it’s what i like to call a single girl’s staple. i first tried this recipe almost a year and a half ago when i received my january/february 2010 issue of cooks illustrated. it seemed simple enough, but i had to whittle down the 4-6 servings to a portion that i could whip up on a night when cooking for only myself. i have made a few changes, but it has become a regular go-to pasta dish that never seems to disappoint. the great thing about this recipe is that you can make it with basic things you already have in your kitchen, not to mention, i have gotten it down to a science and it only takes me about 15 minutes to throw together.

also, it is optional, but depending on what veggies i have on hand, i do a little sauté and toss them in as well. my usual is broccoli and mushrooms, but another good combination is red bell peppers, red pepper flakes and garlic. tonight i found baby carrots, mushrooms, and wee little red onions in my possession. make sure to chop up veggies such as carrots and broccoli smaller since you will only be cooking them for a short time. you can prep them while boiling the water, and then sauté them in olive oil while cooking the pasta.

for one good-sized serving:

  • 1/4 lb linguine
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup pecorino romano, finely grated
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cream, or whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp pepper, finely ground
  • 1/4 cup+ reserved pasta water

bring the 2 cups of water to a boil.

once the water boils add the salt and pasta. stir continuously, otherwise the pasta will stick especially closer to the end.

once it gets closer to being done the water seems to evaporate more quickly and it doesn’t seem to cook as quickly, so you may have to add a splash or two of water to allow it to finish cooking. the idea is to have the pasta al dente, but still have just over 1/4 cup of pasta water left once you have drained it.

drain the pasta, reserving the pasta water.

start with 1/4 cup of the reserved water and whisk it into the finely grated cheese. add the cream (or milk) and whisk. add the oil and whisk. finally add the pepper and whisk. if the sauce is still too thick at this point add a little more pasta water until the desired consistency. the picture below is too thick. it should be thinner.

toss in the pasta, then add any sautéed veggies you want.

toss again. sprinkle with fresh parsley to taste.


fyi, the proportions will change slightly and adjustments will have to be made, but ultimately i did simple math from the original recipe to make this for one. if you want to make it for more, multiply by 4 in order to make it for 1 lb of pasta, serving 4-6. it is a really good option for meatless mondays as well. as for my gluten-free friends, i have not tried this with rice (or other wheat-free) pastas, but part of the science of this recipe has to do with getting starch in to the mix by infusing the semolina into the pasta water, so i don’t see why other starch pastas wouldn’t work, but i haven’t done the research…yet.