The idea of adding a puddle of ricotta on your cacio e pepe comes from Sora Margherita, a Roman-Jewish restaurant in Rome that's been around in the 1920s, and likely hasn't changed much since then. The cacio e pepe base recipe is inspired by one in Katie Parla and Kristina Gill's Tasting Rome, which comes from Leonardo Vignoli. —Ali Slagle
pasta of choice
finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan or a combination
freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of the Pecorino Romano, the pepper, and a small ladle of pasta cooking water. Using the back of a large wooden spoon, mix vigorously and quickly to form a paste.
When the pasta is cooked, quickly add it to the cheese sauce, keeping the cooking water boiling on the stove. Toss vigorously, adjusting with a tablespoon or two of hot water as necessary to melt the cheese and create a sauce that coats the pasta.
Divide among 4 plates and sprinkle each portion with some of the remaining Pecorino Romano. Dollop a heaping spoonful (close to 1/2 cup) of ricotta in the middle of the pasta piles, and garnish with pepper. Serve pronto.