Cacio e Pepe

This Cacio e Pepe recipe makes the perfect creamy, cozy dish of that classic Roman “cheese and pepper” pasta! There’s…

A Couple Cooks – Recipes worth repeating.

This Cacio e Pepe recipe makes the perfect creamy, cozy dish of that classic Roman “cheese and pepper” pasta!

Cacio e pepe

There’s something intoxicating about this shallow bowl of steaming pasta covered in salty, creamy sauce, black pepper and fluffy bits of Pecorino Cheese. Yes, it’s cacio e pepe, that famous Roman pasta that’s blown up in world-wide popularity. Years ago, we tasted a bowl on a trip to Rome, Italy that was so divine we never wanted it to end. Anthony Bourdain once said that cacio e pepe “could be the greatest thing in the history of the world”: and we’re inclined to agree with him. Turns out, this pasta is beyond simple to whip up at home: it’s got a short ingredient list and takes just minutes to whip up. Here’s our spin on this Italian classic!

What is cacio e pepe?

Cacio e pepe is a Roman pasta dish that translates to “cheese and pepper,” referring the simple sauce made of Pecorino Romano cheese and pepper. The sauce is made simply with hot pasta water and freshly grated cheese, which combine to form a luscious, creamy coating to the pasta noodles. According to legend, the dish was invented by shepherds who needed a simple meal with easy to carry staple ingredients. The modern Cacio e pepe was likely invented in the 1800’s, when eating pasta became popular in Rome.

Cacio e pepe

Ingredients in cacio e pepe

Restaurants in Rome each have their own version of cacio e pepe, and we’ve been lucky enough to sample quite a few (we prefer the version at Roscioli if you’re planning a trip!). Here’s what you’ll need for this spin on the classic:

  • Spaghetti or bucatini pasta: Spaghetti is most traditional. We also like bucatini (pictured), which is like hollow spaghetti
  • Pecorino Romano cheese: This sharp, salty aged cheese is what carries the flavor of cacio e pepe. There’s absolutely no substitute for it! Try to buy it in a block if you can (see below).
  • Parmesan cheese: Using this secondary, ore popular cheese helps to round out the flavors. Don’t want to buy two cheeses? Substitute more Pecorino (it’s just as authentic).
  • Butter: This extra ingredient helps the sauce to come together.
  • Black pepper: A generous helping of pepper rounds out the dish.

Tips for cooking pasta to al dente

With cacio e pepe and any Italian pasta recipe, it’s important to cook the pasta to the perfect al dente. Al dente means “to the bite” in Italian: pasta that’s tender with a firm center. Overcooked pasta turns out rubbery and unappetizing. Interestingly, it also has less nutrients and makes you less full. Here’s how to cook pasta to al dente:

  • Set your timer a few minutes before the package instructions indicate. Often, the timing on the pasta package makes overcooked pasta. Start taste testing a few minutes before the package says to.
  • Look for small white fleck at the core. You want to catch it right when there’s a small white fleck at the core, or just as it disappears. Move quickly: there’s no remedy for overcooked pasta!
Cacio e pepe recipe

How to make cacio e pepe (with a smooth sauce)

The biggest issue you’ll find with a homemade cacio e pepe recipe? The sauce comes out clumpy and globby. The sauce is made with hot pasta water, and often when you add the cheese and stir it will glob to the spoon and the pasta instead of integrating into a smooth sauce. Here are a few ways to ensure a creamy sauce:

  • Freshly grate the cheese from a block instead of buying grated. Buy blocks of Pecorino Romano and Parmesan cheese and grate them yourself. Pre-grated cheese can contain anti-caking agents and additives that can make the cheese stick together instead of incorporating into a creamy sauce.
  • Don’t drain the pasta: transfer it to the sauce using tongs. Add any pasta water that clings to the noodles right into the sauce.
  • Add additional pasta water and keep stirring. If it starts to clump, add additional pasta water and keep stirring until the cheese incorporates.
Cacio e pepe

What to serve alongside

With such a simple pasta dish, you can go either pared back or elegant: either work! Here are a few Italian-style side dishes to serve with cacio e pepe:

What do you plan to serve it with? Let us know in the comments below.

More Italian pasta recipes

Love a great Italian-style pasta? Us too! Here are a few more great pasta recipes:

This cacio e pepe recipe is…

Vegetarian.

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Cacio e pepe

Cacio e Pepe


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4

Description

This Cacio e Pepe recipe makes the perfect creamy, cozy dish of that classic Roman “cheese and pepper” pasta!


Ingredients

  • 12 ounces spaghetti or bucatini pasta
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese*
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese*

Instructions

  1. Bring a salted pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente (taste testing a minute or two before the package instructions indicate). Don’t drain the pasta and reserve 1 cup pasta water.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until it melts, then turn the heat to low. Add the black pepper, Pecorino Romano cheese and Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of the hot pasta water. Stir until a thick paste forms, then remove from the heat and wait until the pasta is done.
  3. Right when pasta is al dente, transfer the pasta without draining it: use tongs to transfer it into the saucepan along with any pasta water clinging to the noodles. Add an additional ½ cup of pasta water and return the heat to low. Toss the pasta with the cheesy paste until a thick sauce forms, about 2 minutes. If the cheese starts to glob up, add more pasta water and continue to stir. Top with additional grated Pecorino cheese and serve hot.

Notes

*If you can, buy blocks of Pecorino Romano and Parmesan cheese and grate them yourself. Pre-grated cheese can contain anti-caking agents and additives that can make the cheese stick together instead of incorporating into a creamy sauce.

  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Cacio e pepe, cacio e pepe recipe

A Couple Cooks - Recipes worth repeating.

Side Dish Sundays: Cacio e Pepe Brussels Sprouts.

Newest obsession of life: cacio e pepe brussels sprouts! Oh my gosh, you guys. These are the best brussels I’ve had in my life. THE BEST. They are embarrassingly simple but have a ton of flavor. They’re salty, crispy and have a bit of a bite from the pepper. You will love them! Because cheese […]

The post Side Dish Sundays: Cacio e Pepe Brussels Sprouts. appeared first on How Sweet Eats.

Newest obsession of life: cacio e pepe brussels sprouts!

This cacio e pepe brussels are out of the world. Roasted until crisp, topped with tons of black pepper and salty pecorino cheese. Yum.

Oh my gosh, you guys.

These are the best brussels I’ve had in my life. THE BEST.

They are embarrassingly simple but have a ton of flavor. They’re salty, crispy and have a bit of a bite from the pepper. You will love them! Because cheese and pepper brussels sprouts are the only way to do it.

melted butter on brussels

Way back when I wrote Seriously Delish, I included a recipe for crispy salt and pepper brussels sprouts. You make them on the stovetop and they are quick and crispy and easy and a fave. The flavor is so good, but these… oh wow. These are the business. These take brussels to a whole new level.

The cacio e pepe brussels are roasted with tons of black pepper and pecorino. Instead of using olive oil, I use melted butter to really mimic that cacio e pepe flavor. The butter slightly browns in the oven which adds another whole dimension of flavor too. And the pecorino is extra salty so I find that I don’t even need a lot of salt – if any! 

The key is to pile a lot of pecorino on top so it bakes right on the baking sheet into that golden, crispy perfection. Then add another shower of pecorino on top after they come out of the oven. In addition to extra cracks of pepper!

WHAT.

Every time I make these, I want to devour the entire pan. Because, HELLO. They are completely addictive and everyone is a huge huge fan.

This cacio e pepe brussels are out of the world. Roasted until crisp, topped with tons of black pepper and salty pecorino cheese. Yum.

Pecorino is the best choice for cheese, but parmesan can work too. Give the pan a big heavy handed throw!

This cacio e pepe brussels are out of the world. Roasted until crisp, topped with tons of black pepper and salty pecorino cheese. Yum.

What we love to eat with cacio e pepe brussels:

These brussels are amazing as a side dish, but you can also toss them in roasted pastas and grain bowls!

Hot honey pretzel chicken.

Best ever lemon roasted chicken.

Applewood smoked turkey.

Brown sugar butter roasted chicken.

Maple BBQ salmon.

Hot honey roasted salmon.

Pomegranate braised short ribs.

Herb butter roasted beef tenderloin.

Cauliflower schnitzel sandwiches.

Homemade cauliflower gnocchi.

This cacio e pepe brussels are out of the world. Roasted until crisp, topped with tons of black pepper and salty pecorino cheese. Yum.

Cacio e Pepe Brussels

This cacio e pepe brussels are out of the world. Roasted until crisp, topped with tons of black pepper and salty pecorino cheese. Yum.

  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, (stems removed and cut in half)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • ⅓ cup freshly grated pecorino cheese, (plus extra for sprinkling)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Place the brussels on a baking sheet. Pour the butter over top, then toss the brussels well so all of them are covered. Sprinkle with the black pepper and toss. Cover with the pecorino cheese, tossing again.
  3. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the brussels are slightly golden and the cheese is crisp on the baking sheet. Lift the brussels and crisped cheese off the sheet and onto a place. Top with additional pecorino and serve!
  4. Note: pecorino is super salty so I do not use salt in this recipe. If you feel that you need it, add a sprinkle of salt when roasting!

This cacio e pepe brussels are out of the world. Roasted until crisp, topped with tons of black pepper and salty pecorino cheese. Yum.

Most incredible plate of my life.

The post Side Dish Sundays: Cacio e Pepe Brussels Sprouts. appeared first on How Sweet Eats.

Pumpkin Cacio e Pepe.

This is where the world stops as we make pumpkin cacio e pepe! Oh yes oh yes oh yes. Guys, I wasn’t planning on sharing this recipe until later this month, but after I posted a quick sneak peek on instagram last week, I knew I had to share it NOW. So many of you […]

The post Pumpkin Cacio e Pepe. appeared first on How Sweet Eats.

This is where the world stops as we make pumpkin cacio e pepe!

This pumpkin cacio e pepe is just like the classic pasta dish with a hint of fall. Pumpkin, black pepper and parm come together to make the delicious sauce!

Oh yes oh yes oh yes.

Guys, I wasn’t planning on sharing this recipe until later this month, but after I posted a quick sneak peek on instagram last week, I knew I had to share it NOW. So many of you have requested it and I figured it had to be out in all of its pumpkin glory. That way we (it?) can enjoy all of pumpkin season!

Because newsflash: it’s amazing.

This pumpkin cacio e pepe is just like the classic pasta dish with a hint of fall. Pumpkin, black pepper and parm come together to make the delicious sauce!

It’s crazy because cacio e pepe isn’t even a dish I would order until about two years ago. I have never LOVED black pepper to the point where I want to eat a dish that bears its name. You know? Growing up, I shunned most pepper sprinkles and even now, I rarely say yes to freshly ground black pepper in a restaurant. 

This pumpkin cacio e pepe is just like the classic pasta dish with a hint of fall. Pumpkin, black pepper and parm come together to make the delicious sauce!

Like many other dishes, this is one that I once disliked and all of a sudden came around to. When I mean “all of a sudden,” I truly mean it that way. This has happened to me with so many foods, recipes and dishes that it’s unbelievable. For years, I can have an unsubstantiated mental block against a food, only to see a photo of it in a magazine that looks crave-worth and BOOM.

I’m crazy about it. Just like that. 

That’s what happened with cacio e pepe, so a few years ago I started making it and fell in love. It reminds me of a not-as-heavy carbonara, even though I know the ingredients are different. It’s such a simple, flavorful and classic dish that it’s hard to pass up.

This pumpkin cacio e pepe is just like the classic pasta dish with a hint of fall. Pumpkin, black pepper and parm come together to make the delicious sauce!

Or in my brain, trash up. 

I know I know! Cacio e pepe is so delicious on its own, why do we have to go and add PUMPKIN?

Well, first of all, I’m much more into pumpkin in a savory form than I am in a sweet. Clearly. Considering that less than a week ago, I made pumpkin queso

And here I find myself, rambling on and on about pumpkin and cheese. Again.

This pumpkin cacio e pepe is just like the classic pasta dish with a hint of fall. Pumpkin, black pepper and parm come together to make the delicious sauce!

It’s so very worth it. Promise you that.

The pumpkin is mild. It’s nothing to freak out over. If anything, you can look on the bright side: it adds extra fiber to this dish!

I do find that adding a few grates of nutmeg or even a shake of cinnamon help to bring out the flavor. It tastes like squash pasta, so you could easily sub in butternut squash or your gourd of choice. 

It’s cheesy, and squashy and might just replace this butternut squash carbonara as my favorite squash pasta dish.

Maybe we should have a side-by-side taste test! 

This pumpkin cacio e pepe is just like the classic pasta dish with a hint of fall. Pumpkin, black pepper and parm come together to make the delicious sauce!

Pumpkin Cacio e Pepe

Pumpkin Cacio e Pepe

This pumpkin cacio e pepe is just like the classic pasta dish with a hint of fall. Pumpkin, black pepper and parm come together to make the delicious sauce!

  • 1/2 pound pasta of your choice ((I used campanelle))
  • 1 to 2 cups reserved pasta water
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons garlic, (finely minced or pressed)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, (plus extra for topping)
  • ⅔ cup pumpkin puree
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely grated pecorino cheese
  • parmesan shavings for topping
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and prepare the pasta according to the package directions. Once the pasta has cooked, you want to make sure to reserve 2 cups of the pasta water.
  2. While the water is boiling/pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. Once the butter melts, stir in the garlic with a pinch of salt and all of the pepper. Toast for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin puree until combined.
  3. Stir in 1 cup of the reserved pasta water. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the nutmeg and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add idn the pasta and toss it together. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the parmesan and pecorino. Toss until the cheese is melted and becomes somewhat of a sauce with the water and the pasta. If needed, you can add in more of the reserved pasta water to thin out the sauce.
  4. Serve immediately with extra parmesan shavings and freshly cracked black pepper.

This pumpkin cacio e pepe is just like the classic pasta dish with a hint of fall. Pumpkin, black pepper and parm come together to make the delicious sauce!

My kind of comfort food!

The post Pumpkin Cacio e Pepe. appeared first on How Sweet Eats.