Several years back, I worked in a low-paying job in a government affairs consultancy and split the rent and the bills with a flatmate. I left the job after a couple of years to work in an electorate office on the other side of town with decent and—I can’t stress this enough—regular wages, but at the same time I landed this windfall, my flatmate cleared out with only a few days’ notice.

This left me to bear the cost of entire renting a three-bedder in Sydney, whilst commuting for three hours a day, too tired to do much more than stare at the ceiling on weekends, with no time to look for as new flatmate and no savings with which to move into smaller lodgings. I split what was left every fortnight pretty evenly between cigarettes and food, the latter mostly consisting of Oriental-flavoured two-minute noodles. But on Fridays, I’d treat myself to spaghetti and Leggo’s Spaghetti Sauce with Beef—my protein for the week—topped with the cheapest shaved Parmesan I could find.

I grew to loathe the stuff.

Unfortunately, it’s also very cheap, which is why Mim used to buy it for me as a stopgap meal if she wasn’t up to eating dinner because she’d inadvertently consumed gluten in the previous couple of days. Recently, I found something better, though, and it’s even cheaper. I speak of spaghetti cacio e pepe.

Neither of us are particularly religious, but Mim has a tradition, drummed into her by her mother and grandfather, of eating fish on Good Friday. On the other hand, I have a tradition of my own: eating cheese. It doesn’t really matter what variety, although it has to be in a fair quantity, and has to taste good—so no bland, run-of-the-mill Tasty.

(“Why?” I hear you ask. Well, it’s because Good Friday’s the day that cheeses died for our sins. Boom-tish. I’m here all week…)

Anyway, I’m having spaghetti cacio e pepe for lunch today, as it perfectly fits the bill:

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

serves 4, apparently

(from Smitten Kitchen, measurements Australianised here for ease of reference)

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 500 g spaghetti
  • 1½ Tbsp butter
  • 120 g finely grated Pecorino or Romano cheese (although even cheap, nasty, shaved Parmesan works well)
  • 1½ tsp ground black pepper
  1. Cook the spaghetti until al dente. Reserve 1½ cups of the cooking water and drain the spaghetti.
  2. Wipe out the pot and heat the olive oil over high heat until almost smoking. Put the cooked spaghetti and a cup of the reserved cooking water into the pot. Try not to burn yourself when it spatters.
  3. Add the butter, 90 g of the cheese and the black pepper and toss together with tongs. Add more cooking water, cheese, pepper and/or salt to taste.
  4. Serve garnished with black pepper and the remaining cheese.

And there you go. Two food posts in three days. This is starting to become a habit.

If you don’t know it already, by the way, take some time to read Smitten Kitchen; it deserves its reputation as one of the best cooking blogs on the Net.