Bring it on team. Cacio e Pepe is on the blog today because it’s my favorite pasta dish (that and chicken parm) of all times and there are a few tips and tricks to make it perfectly.
Table of Contents
I know I say that a lot. So and so is my favorite… but let me tell you. I order Cacio e Pepe at every single restaurant, at any given moment, no matter the time of day, or country we are in, the answer is always Cacio e Pepe. It’s the most simple dish in the whole wide world, but it requires a little precision and some great ingredients.
Believe it or not, when we went to Italy 5 years ago for my birthday I had only had Cacio e Pepe one time. That number quickly multiplied as we were in Italy for two full weeks and not a day went by without Cacio e Pepe in our lunch or dinner order. No shame in my game.
It’s my everything. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the dish, it’s a popular Roman dish with a peppery parmesan sauce that just coats every piece of spaghetti so perfectly. Each bite is absolute perfection! Get into it! xo (also if you are looking for a fun twist on this epic recipe you should check out my Creamy Lemon Cacio e Pepe. Its Pasta a limone meets cacio e pepe and its delicious.)
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Spaghetti - While Cacio e Pepe is traditionally made with spaghetti you could also use your favorite pasta shape like bucatini or rigatoni instead in this recipe.
- Unsalted Butter - While this Cacio e Pepe calls for butter, you can absolutely omit it. Instead toast your black pepper in an empty pan for 30 seconds until fragrant then add the starchy pasta water and stir until everything comes to a simmer and continue with the rest of the recipe. (I like using unsalted butter because it allows me to control how much salt I add to a dish, if all you have is salted butter that's okay just reduce the amount of salt you use to garnish your pasta.)
- Kosher Salt & Freshly Cracked Black Pepper - Please take the extra couple of seconds to freshly grind your pepper instead of using the pre-ground stuff. It truly makes such a big difference.
- Grated Parmesan & Pecorino Cheese - Again, please buy the block and shred it yourself. Not only is it fresher and more flavorful but pre-shredded cheese tends to have a coating that prevents the cheese from sticking together and it doesn't incorporate as well into the Cacio e Pepe sauce.
How to Make Cacio e Pepe
Step 1: Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil and season it with salt. Once boiling, add the spaghetti and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve ¾ cup of the pasta cooking water before draining the rest.
Step 2: Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cracked black pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.
Step 3: Add ½ cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add the spaghetti and remaining butter.
Step 4: Reduce heat to low and add Parmesan, stirring and tossing with tongs continuously until melted.
Step 5: Remove the pan from heat and add the grated Pecorino, stirring and tossing until cheese melts and the sauce coats the pasta. If the sauce seems dry add more pasta water a tablespoon at a time.
Tips & Tricks
Make sure to reserve half a cup of pasta water before draining the pasta. The starchy water is crucial to achieving a silky smooth sauce.
If your cheese sauce is clumpy make sure you're using freshly and finely grated cheese.
If your cheese sauce is dry add some reserved pasta water a tablespoon at a time stirring well in between additions until the sauce is glossy.
What is Cacio e Pepe?
It’s a spaghetti based pasta dish with a peppery parmesan sauce that is made by mixing hot starchy pasta water with pepper, grated parmesan, and pecorino cheese.
What to serve with Cacio e Pepe?
What does cacio e pepe mean in Italian?
Cacio e Pepe translates to "cheese and pepper."
If you tried this recipe, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it goes in the 📝 comments below. Thanks for visiting today!
Cacio e Pepe
- Kosher salt
- 10 ounces spaghetti
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, divided
- 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
- ¾ cup finely grated Parmesan
- ⅓ cup finely grated Pecorino
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with salt. Once boiling, add the spaghetti and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, and reserve ¾ cup pasta cooking water.
- Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cracked black pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.
- Add ½ cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add the spaghetti and remaining butter. Reduce heat to low and add Parmesan, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Remove pan from heat; add Pecorino, stirring and tossing until cheese melts and the sauce coats the pasta. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.) Serve immediately.