This classic Roman pasta is my all time favorite pasta! It’s actually a very easy recipe to make with only two ingredients and no oil or butter but it tastes so indulgent and creamy. This is how I learned to make it when I visited Rome last summer; it’s a very quick recipe with minimal equipment or ingredients needed and it’s become one of my go-to’s for a delicious weeknight meal.
Cacio e Pepe
- 1 cup pecorino romano or parmesan freshly grated (use a microplane or smallest grater you own)
- 1 tbsp black pepper freshly cracked
- 4 oz pasta of your choice I prefer to use spaghetti or bucatini with this
- salt to taste
- Start boiling the water for the pasta, using less water than you normally would to boil pasta. This will help ensure the water becomes more starchy from the pasta. Add in salt to the water but not too much! You’ll be adding this water to the pasta sauce eventually so you don’t want it to be over-salty.
- Heat a pan to medium low heat and add freshly crushed black pepper to it and let the pepper dry roast.
- Grate fresh Pecorino Romano or Parmesan into a bowl, it’s important to use freshly grated and not pre-grated cheese for this because you want the cheese to melt nicely into the sauce. Pre-grated cheese will give you clumps!
- Cook your pasta al dente according to its instructions.
- Once your pasta is cooked, set aside about 1 cup of pasta water in a separate bowl ( I usually only end up using about 1/2 cup of pasta water but it's always better to have more just in case you need it).
- Add your pasta into the pan with the black pepper and add it in about 2 tablespoons of pasta water into the pan as well. Mix the pasta with the black pepper thoroughly so it starts to form a silky coating over the pasta.
- Whisk in some pasta water with your fresh grated cheese until it forms a smooth consistency. Then pour this over the pasta and turn the heat up to medium and keep mixing the pasta to achieve a silky, creamy sauce.
- Mix the cheese sauce in thoroughly with the pasta, top with some more fresh cheese and salt and a touch of black pepper, and enjoy!
- Grate the cheese using the smallest grater you have. This will lessen your chance of getting clumps.
- If your sauce is turning out clumpy, add in more pasta water and turn the heat up a tiny bit to help the cheese melt.
- If you have a choice between pecorino romano and parmesan, use pecorino romano for a more authentic flavor. Personally, I found it hard to find blocks of pecorino at my local grocery store so I usually go with parmesan.
- Pecorino romano is saltier than parmesan, so be careful when adding any extra salt to your pasta. Always taste as you go along!
- The black pepper gets spicier as you roast it so don’t add a lot if you have a low spice tolerance.
- If you want a creamier sauce, add in a tablespoon of butter into the pan when you add your cheese mixture to the pasta. (adding butter to cacio e pepe is a very controversial move among cacio e pepe purists however, so probably don’t do this if it’s your first time having cacio e pepe.)
- Make sure you’re using freshly ground black pepper and freshly grated cheese! There’s only two ingredients to this pasta and it’s important that they’re both of a high quality.
I’ve seen many different ways of making this classic pasta, but this is what has worked best for me. Cacio e pepe is all about the technique so you may have to practice a few times to get it perfect, but once you have the recipe down it is a very simple and quick pasta to make.
Enjoy and please comment with any thoughts or questions!
I would love to see your creations! If you try the recipe, please feel free to share it with me on my Instagram @jankipatel_ !