There’s a reason Cacio E Pepe has a cult following, and once you taste it, you’ll know the Romans were definitely on to something.

Considering it’s comprised of exactly three ingredients (five if you count the salt for the pasta water and the pasta water itself), it’s ridiculous how tasty it is.

But despite its relative simplicity, there’s a reason I’ve always ordered it in restaurants. As a friend of mine and I mused about on Instagram, it’s deceptively difficult to make at home. You need a few good tricks in your back pocket.

The first time I made Cacio E Pepe, I turned to my usual source of culinary inspiration, Ina Garten. I wanted to recreate the pasta magic Will and I had experienced at I Sodi, and I wrongfully assumed it wouldn’t be that difficult. But once I brought the pasta to the table, I knew something had gone horribly wrong. The spaghetti was a gloopy mess of pepper and Pecorino that hadn’t emulsified into a sauce. I used the pasta water, I tossed vigorously, and nope, not even close to I Sodi. We ate it anyway, but let’s just say, it wasn’t bliss.

Over the years, I hoped to finally get it right. I researched and repeated the process with a few other recipes from chefs I love, but while some tasted okay, it wasn’t even close to what restaurants chefs were delivering consistently.

And then I stumbled upon Deb Perelman’s recipe from Smitten Kitchen and took solace knowing I’m not the only one who has struggled to replicate Cacio E Pepe at home. When she described her recipe as “foolproof,” I was admittedly a little skeptical. But once I tried it, and it WORKED beautifully, that was a very happy (and tasty) moment.  And yesterday when the craving hit, I whipped up a batch in about 25 minutes, which included grating the cheese.

Since Cacio E Pepe isn’t really something you order for takeout, and we’re all grocery shopping a little less these days, too, it’s the perfect, totally satisfying, pantry dish. If you don’t have Pecorino, Parmesan will work in a pinch, but if you happen to have a Costco in your  vicinity, they sell oversized wedges of Pecorino at a good price. I cut the chunk in half and freeze the other, which makes for many yummy meals for the next few months.