This is a true, authentic Italian recipe for Cacio e Pepe.
What is Cacio e Pepe?
Cacio e Pepe (translated as “cheese and pepper”) is a pasta dish that is very popular in Rome, Italy. As the name suggests, the components of the dish are, very simply, spaghetti with Romano cheese and freshly ground pepper. The hot, starchy pasta cooking water is tossed with the spaghetti to help the cheese and pepper adhere to the pasta.
I love this pasta dish because it such a simple meal, and it’s still totally delicious. You will find this recipe on the menu in a good Italian restaurant, but it’s super easy to make at home… so why not?
How do you make Cacio e Pepe?
Add spaghetti to salted, boiling water and cook until al dente. I personally think it’s nice to try and use a good quality spaghetti for this recipe since the pasta is not laden in heavy sauces. You want it to taste good! After cooking the pasta, you will save 1 cup of the pasta water. This is important for all pasta recipes. That starchy liquid is great to add to the pasta after cooking as it helps sauces work with the pasta.
In a large skillet, you’ll heat the butter and oil. Then you’ll add a tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper to it and let it toast in the butter and oil for about one minute. The cooked spaghetti is then added to the skillet, and you can toss it with the butter/oil/pepper and some of the pasta water. Then add in some of the cheese and cook, until it has melted into the pasta. You can add more pasta water, as needed to help loosen up the pasta if it’s sticking together.
Plate the pasta, and top with salt and additional cheese. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley, if you wish.
Are you hungry now? I hope you can see how very easy this is to make. It’s not what Americans think of as classic Italian food in the USA because… where’s the red sauce or Alfredo? But that’s what I love about it. So simple, and so delicious.
I was in Rome with my family this past summer, and we sampled Cacio e Pepe twice! It’s the dish that Rome is known for perfecting, and it’s on every menu all over Rome. They do it right!
Here are a few more Italian pasta dishes you might like to try:
- Pasta Rustica
- Spaghetti Carbonara
- Chicken Mushroom Fettuccine
- Bucatini Amatriciana
- Classic Light Lasagna
- Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Manicotti
- Linguine with Clam Sauce
Cacio e Pepe
- 12 ounces spaghetti
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 3/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, plus more for serving
- Fill a large pot with water, add a couple of pinches of Kosher salt, and bring to a boil.
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, reserving 1 cup of the pasta liquid before draining (important!)
- In a large skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat until the butter has melted into the oil. Add the pepper; cook and stir about 1 minute, just until the pepper is a little bit toasted. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and 3/4 of the reserved cooking liquid, tossing to coat. Sprinkle the Parmesan on top and continue to cook, tossing, until the cheese is melted and the pasta is well-coated (about 2 minutes). Add a little more of the cooking liquid, as needed, to bring moisture back into the pasta and loosen it up. Season with salt, and divide the pasta between 4 bowls. Sprinkle additional Parmesan cheese on top.