This pasta was inspired by a reader (thanks, Kathy!) recalling a stir-fry she used to make using parmesan and soy sauce. The combination is inspired because these ingredients contain high concentrations of naturally occurring glutamate, the compound responsible for the taste of umami.
By creating an emulsion of the two, along with some water and oil, you get a supremely rich and creamy sauce overflowing with umami. The method is similar to making Aglio e Olio or Cacio e Pepe, but I've made it more foolproof by doing two things.
- These types of pasta usually rely on the pasta releasing starch into the boiling liquid, which is then used to make the sauce. The starch helps emulsify the liquid with the oil and cheese while preventing the cheese from breaking. The way most modern pasta is manufactured, it doesn't release much starch into the water. Adding potato starch to the cheese mixture fixes that problem.
- Instead of adding the cheese straight to the hot pan, I temper it by pouring some pasta boiling liquid into the cheese mixture. This increases the cheese's temperature enough to melt while starting to gel the starch. Once this mixture is emulsified, it can safely be added to the much hotter pan with the oil.
I served this as a side dish for some pan-fried chicken thigh steaks, which is why there's not much else going on here, but you could add some mushrooms or seafood to make this more of a main and serve it with a salad.
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