1. Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a large pot; season with salt.
2. Meanwhile, in a 10- to 12-inch skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat until almost smoking. Add onion and red pepper flakes; saute until translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add jalapenos; saute for 1 minute. Add zest and juice; bring to a boil, and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in butter, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. Drop pasta into boiling water and cook until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain.
4. Toss hot pasta into pan with lemon mixture; return to medium heat. Stir together gently. Add pecorino; toss quickly. Transfer to a warmed serving platter. Serve immediately.
This recipe is adapted from Mario Batali's Molto Italiano. (Ecco, 2005).
Darra Goldstein is editor in chief of The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, an 888-page reference guide to all things sweet. "The book is really a compendium of human desires, a cultural history of desire for things that are sweet and what it has caused in the world, in both the realm of pleasure and also of pain," she says.