Mar 25, 2016

Cacio e Pepe Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Cacio e pepe is essentially a grown up version of mac and cheese that is acceptable to order at a nice Italian restaurant and still seem like an adult.

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This cacio e pepe recipe is essentially a grown up version of mac and cheese that is acceptable to order at a nice Italian restaurant and still seem like an adult. It’s also just as easy to make as mac and cheese so no need to be intimidated! This pasta is has no added cream, it is a sauce composed entirely of cheese.

Cacio e pepe has its roots in the 15th century when Romans would eat pasta with light cheese. It has stood the test of time for a reason, it is simple yet delicious. For another creamy pasta recipe with just a few ingredients try bucatini carbonara.

Cacio e Pepe Recipe

More About Cacio e Pepe

My dream is to get one of those giant wheels of Parmesan cheese that John Legend got Chrissy Teigen (#goals) as a present. It is a giant wheel of Parmesan hollowed out so when you put the hot pasta in, it slowly melts the cheese and creates a sauce. Sure you can go to a restaurant and get it but I would love to add a wheel of Parmesan cheese to my permanent apartment decor.

cacio e pepe ingredients grated cheese butter black pepper

Key Ingredients in This Recipe


Cacio e pepe is typically made with spaghetti though it can be swapped for another noodle like tubular bucatini or flat, wide noodles like fettuccine can be used instead. I’d recommend sticking with dried pasta rather than using fresh pasta for this recipe since the sauce is made by stirring the pasta with the cheese and pasta cooking water. Fresh pasta can sometimes be too delicate. The pasta cooking water is used to create the creamy cheesy sauce.

Black Pepper

I recommend using freshly cracked black pepper in this recipe. If your pepper grinder doesn’t do a coarse grind, use the flat side of a knife to press down and roll over the peppercorns.

Pecorino Romano

Pecorino Romano is a hard, salty Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk. While I like the flavor of the combination of both cheeses in this recipe, it can easily be made with one or another.


Parmesan-Reggiano is definitely one of my favorite cheeses. It’s a hard cow’s milk cheese aged for different lengths of time. I’d recommend buying a roughly cut piece of wrapped cheese from the grocery store – it’s typically a higher quality cheese. In this recipe I’d recommend grating it just before adding to the pasta to get the smoothest sauce possible.

cacio e pepe recipe in pasta bowl

How to make Cacio e Pepe

Step 1

Cook the pasta until it’s al dente. Reserve some of the pasta cooking water then drain the pasta.

Step 2

Toss the pasta in the olive oil to coat.

Step 3

Sauté the pepper in the butter until fragrant.

Step 4

Add some of the reserved pasta water, stirring to combine. Add the pasta, tossing to coat in the pepper mixture.

Step 5

Combine the grated pecorino and Parmesan and cheeses in a small bowl. Turn the heat off and slowly add the cheese a little bit at a time, tossing the pasta to coat.

Step 6

Serve immediately in warmed pasta bowls.

how to make cacio e pepe recipe with spaghetti

Other Recipes to Try

Use this cheese and black pepper combination on other dishes as well.

Cacio e Pepe Recipe

Print Pin
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Serves 2


  • ½ pound spaghetti
  • teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese


  • Bring a large pot of water to the boil; add the salt and bring back to the boil. Pour in the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until more al dente than normal since it will continue to cook later, about 6 minutes.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of the cooking liquid, and return the pasta to the pot. Toss the pasta in the olive oil to coat.
  • Heat a large flat-sided sauté pan over medium heat, add the butter and allow it to melt. Add the black pepper and let cook, stirring constantly, until the pepper is fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add ½ cup of the reserved pasta water and stir to combine. Then add the pasta, tossing to coat in the pepper mixture.
  • In a small bowl combine the grated pecorino and Parmesan and cheeses. Turn the heat off and slowly add the cheese about 2 tablespoons at a time, constantly tossing the pasta to coat.
  • If the sauce gets clumpy, add more of the cooking liquid a tablespoon at a time. Remove the pan from the heat and continue to toss until the pasta is entirely coated with the creamy cheese sauce.
  • Serve immediately in warmed pasta bowls.



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Recipe Rating

  1. Since the grocery store was out of everything but cheese, I put on my best cooking with cocktail rings hat and decided to try this recipe since it looked easy and didn’t need a lot of ingredients. I chose to make homemade pasta instead of store bought and oh my goodness it was amazing!!! So easy and tasted so good!!! Hard to mess up pasta and cheese, but let me tell you this recipe does not disappoint!!

  2. Made this for dinner tonight and immediately sent the recipe over to my family. I don’t think there’s an easier dish to make! The Pecorino Romano and cracked black pepper complemented each other perfectly. Will definitely make again!