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Looking to switch things up from the mac and cheese that your child (or, um, partner) insists on? Same with Deb Perelman, who turned the iconic cacio e pepe into a foundation for a slight-more-sophisticated cheesy pasta. If your kids are heat-averse, start with 1 tsp. black pepper and add more to taste.
- 16 oz. gemelli, orecchiette, or other medium pasta
- 3 cups corn kernels (from 3 large ears)
- 8 oz. aged Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, finely grated (about 2 cups), plus more for serving
- 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente; add corn about 30 seconds before pasta is done cooking. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta and corn to the pot.
While pasta is cooking, toss 8 oz. cheese and 2 tsp. pepper in a medium bowl to combine. Add ⅓ cup cold water and use a fork to mash mixture into a thick paste (try to get it as smooth as possible). Still mashing, add more water a tablespoonful at a time until paste is about the consistency of cream cheese.
Add cheese mixture to pot with pasta and corn. Using a rubber spatula, toss pasta until coated (the cheese mixture will be too thick to form a sauce at this point). Tossing constantly, add reserved pasta cooking liquid a splash at a time until a glossy sauce forms (it should still be fairly thick).
Transfer pasta to a large bowl and top with more cheese and a few additional grinds of pepper.