After flipping through Chrissy Teigen’s first cookbook and obsessing over the recipes, I knew the first one I had to make was Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe. It’s like a combination of spaghetti aglio e olio and cacio e pepe . . . plus pancetta, because pancetta makes everything better.
Chrissy has said that this recipe is one of her “top five in the book,” and I’m not kidding when I say it’s going to become one of my top pasta recipes, and pasta is my favorite food in the world. The crispy pancetta adds salty goodness, the heavy amount of black pepper and red pepper flakes makes it spicy, and the lemony-cheesy-garlicky sauce is light and indulgent at the same time.
Some say love conquers all, but I say cacio e pepe does. It’s true, John and I fell for each other and got married in Lake Como, Italy, but it’s also where I became a slave to this pasta dish, which is super peppery and cheesy and is basically the boss of me whenever I make it. At first I was a little worried: Since I first tasted it when I was all gooey-romancey in Italia, would it weather the trip home? DID I HAVE PASTA GOGGLES ON? Thankfully, I adore it as much now as I did then – even more, actually.
Which is a good thing to be able to say about pasta recipes as well as husbands.
12 ounces dried spaghetti
1/4 pound (about 3/4 cup) pancetta or bacon, finely diced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons (about 4 big cloves) minced garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
3 cups baby arugula
In a large pot of heavily salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti to al dente according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water (it comes in handy), then drain the pasta.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the pancetta over medium-high heat until crisped, 7 to 9 minutes. Add the olive oil, then add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and black pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the lemon juice to the skillet, then toss in the drained pasta and toss to coat. Add the Parm and toss, adding the pasta water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, just to help the cheese coat the pasta. Add the arugula and toss until it wilts, about 1 minute. Season to taste with additional salt, lots of black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Serve with more Parm.