Fill a large pot with water and set it over medium heat on the stove. Once the water starts to boil, season it liberally with salt. Make sure to salt it well because this is where the pasta absorbs most of the flavor.
Then, add the bucatini or noodle of choice. Cook the noodles about a minute less than the package instructions.
While the pasta boils, prepare and cut any additional proteins or vegetables if you choose to include them.
Once the noodles are done cooking, reserve about a cup of the pasta water and then drain the rest. (If you forget to reserve the water, check out the tip below!)
In the empty pasta pot, melt the butter over medium-low to medium heat. Once the butter is almost completely melted, cook the protein/veggies until completely cooked through (optional) or skip right to adding the freshly grated pepper and lemon zest.
After the pepper and zest are added, allow them to incorporate and toast in the butter for about a minute. Then, add the pasta and a ½ cup of pasta water to the pot.
Reduce the heat to low, add the grated cheese, and gently stir until everything combines to coat the pasta in a smooth silky sauce. If the pasta seems too dry or sticky, add a bit more pasta water in small increments until you reach the consistency you desire.