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Cacio e Pepe

close up shot of a bowl of Cacio e Pepe topped with parmesan cheese
A cheesy smooth sauce, spaghetti and black pepper are all you need for this cacio e pepe; one of the simplest recipes around.
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Table of Contents
  1. CACIO E PEPE INGREDIENTS
  2. HOW TO MAKE THIS CACIO E PEPE RECIPE
  3. HOW TO SERVE
  4. STORAGE
  5. MORE RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE
  6. JUMP TO RECIPE

Cacio e pepe is a traditional pasta dish that consists of nothing more than fresh pasta, black pepper, and tangy cheese. The name literally translates to “cheese and pepper” in English and has been a beloved Italian recipe for generations because they know how tasty it can be.

Simple is the name of the game for busy nights. Our creamy Italian chicken with pasta and one pot pasta are both dishes that are quick to make and check the box for plenty of flavor.

CACIO E PEPE INGREDIENTS

You’ll need:

  • ½ pound (8 ounces) spaghetti noodles
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1½ cups freshly grated parmesan cheese (finely grated from a block is best)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons salted & starchy pasta water (reserved from the boiling of the spaghetti noodles)

PRO TIP:

Fresh grated from the block of cheese is the only way to go with this! Skip the pre-shredded cheese for this recipe and grate it yourself.

SUBSTITUTIONS AND ADDITIONS

CHEESE: You can very easily substitute pecorino cheese in place of the parmesan cheese or a combination of both in this simple recipe. You want to make sure you choose a hard Italian cheese that is good quality, and freshly grated works best.

SPAGHETTI: You can swap out the spaghetti noodles for bucatini pasta which is a thick spaghetti-like pasta. Any thin long noodles will work best for this dish such as spaghettini, capellini, fettuccine, or vermicelli.

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HOW TO MAKE THIS CACIO E PEPE RECIPE

PRO TIP:

This spaghetti cacio e pepe is not a very “saucy” dish, and the cheese melts into the pasta pretty quickly, so I highly suggest serving immediately for best results. If you like a little more sauce, then you can add a little bit of additional cheese and pasta cooking water to create more sauce.

STEP ONE: In a large pot bring 4 quarts of water to a boil, and add the salt. Once the salt has dissolved, add the spaghetti noodles to the boiling water and continue to cook pasta for another 8 to 9 minutes or until al dente.

STEP TWO: About a minute or so before your pasta is done boiling, add the butter and ground pepper to a large skillet on medium-low heat to toast the pepper for 30 seconds in the melted butter. Turn off the heat to the skillet.

STEP THREE: Add the freshly grated parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of the pasta water and vigorously stir with the back of a wooden spoon to let the cheese melt and form a loose sauce. You can add an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons of the starchy water if needed.

PRO TIP:

When you get a block of parmesan or pecorino romano cheese and grate it yourself, make sure to save your cheese rind. You can freeze it in a zip-top bag and use it to flavor soups and sauces at a later time. 

STEP FOUR: When your pasta is done cooking, using a large strainer, transfer the pasta to the skillet with the cheese sauce, and quickly toss to completely coat the pasta with the sauce.

STEP FIVE: Transfer your hot pasta to a large bowl or serving dish and garnish with additional freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh cracked black pepper.

HOW TO SERVE

Whip up this simple pasta dish the next time you need a quick meal. Make sure you sprinkle extra cheese on top of your pasta because you can never have too much cheese. You can serve this easy and delicious recipe with a Caesar salad and grilled chicken breast for a wonderful weeknight family meal. You can also swap out chicken and add some grilled shrimp instead.

STORAGE

This authentic cacio e pepe pasta recipe is a quick and easy dish to prepare and should be served while warm as it does not reheat very well.

Only three simple ingredients are needed to make this classic Roman pasta dish, sometimes called cacio de Roma. It’s the ultimate comfort food and beyond delicious in its simplicity. Buon appetito!

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can I use a different cheese than parmesan?

This simple dish would be delicious with any tangy, hard Italian cheese. Try pecorino romano, parmigiano reggiano and asiago are all fantastic cheeses to use in this recipe.

What are the best pasta noodles for this recipe?

This classic pasta dish will work well with any long spaghetti-like pasta noodles.

How do I know when my pasta is al dente?

To test your pasta for al dente, take a bite of the pasta a minute or two before the package instructions indicate it should be done. When you bite into it, and your teeth feel some resistance, but the pasta is still tender, your pasta is al dente.

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close up shot of a bowl of Cacio e Pepe topped with parmesan cheese

Cacio e Pepe

5 from 1 vote
A cheesy smooth sauce, spaghetti and black pepper are all you need for this cacio e pepe; one of the simplest recipes around.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • ½ pound spaghetti noodles (8 ounces)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • cups freshly grated parmesan cheese finely grated from a block is best
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons salted and starchy pasta water reserved from the boiling of the spaghetti noodles

Instructions
 

  • In a large stock pot, filled with about 4 quarts of boiling water, add the salt. Once the salt has dissolved add the spaghetti noodles and continue to boil for another 8 to 9 minutes or al dente.
  • About a minute or so before your pasta is done boiling, add the butter and black pepper to a large skillet, on medium-low heat to toast the pepper for 30 seconds in the melted butter. Turn off the heat to the skillet.
  • Add the freshly grated parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of the pasta water and vigorously stir with the back of a wooden spoon until the cheese forms a loose sauce. You can add an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons if needed.
  • When your pasta is done cooking, using a large strainer, transfer the pasta to the skillet with the cheese sauce and quickly toss to completely coat the pasta with the sauce.
  • Transfer your cacio e pepe pasta to a serving dish and garnish with additional freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh cracked black pepper.

Notes

PRO TIP: Fresh grated from the block of cheese is the only way to go with this!
 
PRO TIP: This spaghetti cacio e pepe is not a very “saucy” dish, and the cheese melts into the pasta pretty quickly, so I highly suggest serving immediately for best results. If you like a little more sauce, then you can add a little bit of additional cheese and pasta cooking water to create more sauce.
 
PRO TIP: When you get a block of parmesan or pecorino romano cheese and grate it yourself, make sure to save your cheese rind. You can freeze it in a zip-top bag and use it to flavor soups and sauces at a later time.

Nutrition

Calories: 423kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 1741mg | Potassium: 182mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 502IU | Calcium: 433mg | Iron: 1mg
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