Of the 10 items I always have in my fridge and pantry, this recipe makes use of five of them. It’s an easy fix for nights when the cupboards are bare, I have no more than 15 minutes to pull a meal together, and bellies need to be filled with something warm and delicious.
A crowd-pleaser and kid-pleaser, Butter, Egg and Cheese is spaghetti carbonara’s pork-free cousin. The whole thing gets done in the same vessel used to cook the spaghetti, the heat of pot and pasta effectively cooking the egg onto the noodles.
It’s just the sort of dish to make when comfort is in order: when someone comes home with reports of a broken promise, or a broken ankle, or perhaps when they’re older, a broken heart.
It’s the meal we ate when I was a girl visiting cousins who lived in a house that was always alive with children, and noise, and the smell of something good happening at the stove. The dining table, which filled the better part of the kitchen, was crowded with too many of us to reasonably fit; a giant pot of this spaghetti usually at its center. As I recall, the pasta was devoured, shoveled into mouths rather than eaten with any semblance of manners.
Butter, Egg, and Cheese is a recipe my aunt learned from her mother, a native of Italy. It’s since been passed on to my cousins, and their children, to me…and now you. It’s well worth sharing. And much as I’m prone to tinker with recipes in an attempt to lighten them up or work in more vegetables or experiment with whole-grain pasta, Butter, Egg, and Cheese should be left entirely alone. Get your added nourishment from generous salads and steamed vegetables on the side. Those Italian grandmothers knew what they were doing with this one.
The handful of ingredients in this dish can be adjusted to suit your taste. Some like it cheesier, others prefer less milk, and others still, more butter. However you make it, do your best to get it from stove to table the minute the dish is assembled; that's when it is at its very best.
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 3/4 cup milk, plus more if needed
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more to pass at the table
- Pepper to taste
- Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of generously salted water.
- While the spaghetti cooks, whisk together the milk and egg in a small bowl.
- Once the pasta is cooked al dente, drain.
- Put the drained pasta back into the cooking pot. Turn the heat to low, add the milk/egg mixture and butter, and stir just until the milk thickens and coats the noodles, a minute or so.
- Remove from heat. Add the cheese and stir again. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. If the pasta gets too sticky, thin it with a little more milk.
- Serve immediately with more Pecorino Romano at the table.