There are two slightly tricky parts about making this dish properly: One is finding butter with a high fat and low water content (or “making” it yourself). The other is learning how to mix the cheese and butter into the pasta with the right, swift movements. Practice once before you make this dish for company. And, please, use only the finest Parmigiano Reggiano you can obtain.
Wrap butter securely in a very clean kitchen towel (make sure it doesn’t smell of soap or bleach), then knead butter gently but firmly for 5 to 10 minutes or until a considerable amount of moisture has been extruded from it. Unwrap cloth and scrape butter up with a dinner knife or wooden spatula, forming it into nut-shaped pieces and putting it on a plate. Allow to soften to room temperature before cooking pasta.*
Cook pasta in generously salted water until al dente or done to your taste. (Fresh pasta cooks much faster than dried.)
Place half the butter in a large, shallow-rimmed bowl. Drain pasta well and add to the bowl. Place the remaining butter atop the pasta, and scatter about half the cheese over the top, then very quickly lift pasta up from platter with a fork and large spoon and let drop back down, doing this frequently until butter and cheese coat pasta thoroughly. (Work as quickly as possible so that pasta doesn’t cool.) Repeat the process with half of the remaining cheese.
Serve immediately with remaining cheese and freshly ground black pepper on the side.
© 1992 Colman Andrews. All rights reserved.