Cooking with Ceci: What’s better than pasta?

(Photo by Ceci Martinez)
(Photo by Ceci Martinez)

We are lucky to live near a culinary mecca, Chicago. In a recent trip my husband and I, after exploring the city all day and with much anticipated excitement about our dinner, ended up in a busy street corner discovering by accident “Eataly Chicago Restaurant.” This is a place where you can experience amazing food from the moment you walk in the door, with 63,000 square feet of space, dozens of aisles of grocery, 22 different restaurants and bars, you can easily spend half a day in this food palace! The mission statement in their pasta station is: “One of the things that makes pasta so perfect is how simple it is”. This delicizioso dish “Spaghetti with Lemon” is exactly that! It’s a perfect recipe for the busy new year.


Total: 25 minutes /  Serves: 4


Coarse salt

1 lb (454g) thick spaghetti

1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, softened

3 ounces, Grana Padano cheese, grated (1 cup)

2 teaspoons freshly cracked pepper, plus more of garnish

3/4 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1/4 cup)

1 large lemon (preferably Meyer)

High quality extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling


Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water before draining.

Transfer pasta to a big skillet (preferably nonstick). Add butter and 1/2 cup pasta water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. The heat helps the starch in the water meld with the fat from the butter, which prevents the Grana Padano from becoming stringy in the finished dish.

Reduce heat to low, and mix in Grana Padano and cracked pepper; the cheese will melt into the buttery water, creating a sauce as the pasta finishes cooking.

Toss pasta with tongs to thoroughly coat it with sauce. Keep everything at a gentle simmer just until cheese melts and sauce thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, then stir in Pecorino Romano, (always add Pecorino off direct heat; it clumps when cooked.) Zest lemon over the pasta. If pasta looks dry, toss it with a bit more pasta water until it has a glossy coating. Serve pasta and drizzle each plate with oil and lemon juice, and garnish with more cracked pepper. Serve immediately.