15 Minute Easy Cacio e Pepe

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.

A speckled bowl of  Cacio e Pepe with a fork and a spoon.

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

Dry Spaghetti, a bowl of salt, a bowl of pecorino, a bowl of unsalted butter, a bowl of black pepper, and a bowl of grated parmesan.
  • 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

A bowl of spaghetti in a large pot of water.

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.

A large skillet with melted butter and cracked black pepper.

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.

A large skillet with cooked spaghetti and a chunk of unmelted butter.

Step 3: Add ½ cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add the spaghetti and remaining butter.

A large skillet with cooked spaghetti and shaved parmesan.

Step 4: Reduce heat to low and add Parmesan, stirring and tossing with tongs continuously until melted.

The final prepped dish of cacio e pepe in a large skillet.

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.

Cacio e Pepe in a speckled bowl sitting next to a bow of parmesan.

FAQs

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?

I'd serve it with some sort of protein, either grilled shrimp, grilled steak, or chicken. And a Butter Lettuce Salad or a vegetable side like Peas and Pancetta with Lemon.

What does cacio e pepe mean in Italian?

Cacio e Pepe translates to "cheese and pepper."

Similar Recipes

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

Author: Gaby Dalkin
5 from 22 votes
The most simple but delicious pasta out there - Cacio e Pepe! Cheesy, Peppery Pasta. You'll be obsessed
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • Kosher salt
  • 10 ounces spaghetti  
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, divided
  • 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
  • ¾ cup finely grated Parmesan
  • cup finely grated Pecorino

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Notes

Get in the habit of scooping out pasta water every single time! No matter what type of sauce you are making this is the best way to finish it.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 452kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 434mg | Potassium: 216mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 465IU | Calcium: 276mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this Recipe? Tag me Today!Mention @WhatsGabyCookin or tag #whatsgabycooking!

Photo by Matt Armendariz / Food Styling by Adam Pearson / Recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking

45 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    What a delicious and simple recipe! I wasn’t sure I would like it but it’s now on the regular rotation. Thanks Gaby!

  2. 5 stars
    Tried and true favorite!! Thank you for reminding me to put this on the summer rotation with one of your fabulous salads!!!

  3. I love this recipe! For some reason that I don’t understand, most of the time this comes out silky smooth like you’d expect, but sometimes all the cheese clumps up and sticks to the spoon. I always use the same cheese, same grate (always grate it myself), etc. Ideas??????

  4. Gaby, question.
    I think I know the answer. I'm a Type 1 Diabetic and if I eat Pasta I try to use something other then regular semolina pasta. Do you think this will taste as yummy with a Whole Wheat Spaghetti? I'm thinking not. More fiber equals a little less Insulin needed for the meal. I want to make this but also want it to be delicious. Thank you!

  5. 5 stars
    This was delicious— I loved the cracked black pepper taste (and of course all the cheese)! However, my cheese seemed to get a little clumpy on the tongs and in the pasta. Do you have any idea what might’ve caused this?

  6. 5 stars
    By far the best pasta recipe I have come across! So simple yet so flavorful. I have a hard time with pasta that is saturated with sauces but this one is just perfect. Thank you! Can’t wait to try some of your other recipes.

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