Cacio e Pepe is a simple Roman dish (meaning cheese and pepper) that is pretty much all I need in life! This easy, classic Italian pasta dish comes together in just 20 minutes, making it perfect for a family weeknight meal.
Made with just five ingredients, the simplicity of this dish is perfection! Keep reading to learn why it’s such a family favorite.
Cacio e Pepe is a simple Italian pasta. Truly, it’s so simple that its translation quite literally means cheese and pepper. Little else is needed to make this dish outstanding, so of course we choose those two ingredients wisely.
This recipe is so creamy (similar to an alfredo), but in my opinion, a little more refined and flavorful. Say goodbye to garlic and hello to Grana Padano, my personal favorite. Pecorino or parmesan also work well.
Sometimes, I just need a great plate of pasta to complete my day. Pasta is my comfort food. It reminds me of my childhood and eases me into the evening. For me, not much compares.
You can have your fried chicken, casseroles and pot pies, but for me, pasta is where it’s at. This pasta doesn’t need any accompaniments, it’s just so perfect by itself.
Cacio e Pepe
The girls love when I make Cacio e Pepe. The first time I made it for them, I was prepared for a fight. I thought they’d see the pretty little black specks and melt down in tears. They loved it and consider it a special treat (as do I).
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Pasta – Tonnarelli is the traditional pasta to use in this authentic recipe, but spaghetti is easily available. Bucatini and shells also pair well with this dish. Make homemade pasta, fresh or boxed.
- Butter – Salted butter is my go to for this pasta dish, but you can use unsalted if you prefer. If you use unsalted, you may want to add a pinch of salt to the melted butter.
- Black Pepper – Thick flakes of black pepper add immense flavor to this simple dish. Use freshly ground or coarsely ground pepper.
- Cheese – Grana Padano and Pecorino – the cheeses are interchangeable, you can use one or both. Grate the cheese finely so that it melts quickly and easily into the pasta.
- Add a little squeeze of lemon for a lemon cacio e pepe. I recommend 1-2 tablespoons for a nice lemony flavor.
- Try this recipe with Browned Butter. Such an easy extra step that adds an incredible layer of flavor.
- Add a handful of fresh herbs for even more vibrant fragrance. Oregano, rosemary and thyme would all be beautiful here.
- Add a protein, like my favorite Baked Chicken.
How to Make Easy Cacio e Pepe
- Prepare Pasta – Boil pasta, drain and reserve ½ cup pasta water.
- Prepare Sauce – In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add pepper and swirl to toast.
- Toss – Reduce heat to low. Add pasta and pasta water. Toss to coat. Toss with Grana Padano.
- Add Cheese – Remove from heat and toss with Pecorino.
- Go with a store bought box pasta instead of making your own if you’re on a time crunch.
- Grate your cheese earlier in the day to make a quick dinner in a hurry!
- Prepare pasta al dente. It will continue to cook once it has drained, and again when it is added to the butter. No one likes soggy spaghetti!
- Grate your own cheese. I can’t stress this enough! In a dish this simple, the quality of your ingredients will matter so much. Buy a high quality cheese and learn how to grate cheese for the best creamy melt.
- Melt the butter on a medium heat so that it doesn’t burn. It should melt, but not bubble.
- Save a little of your pasta water. The starch that remains in the water helps create a warm, creamy sauce in this dish.
What goes well with cacio e pepe? So many things. Find more inspiration in my guide to the best Italian Side Dishes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Use a finely shredded cheese, and grate it yourself. Nothing can replace freshly grated cheese! In fact, many pre-packaged grated cheese blends are coated with a substance that prevents them from sticking, also preventing them from melting appropriately.
This pasta dish can be enjoyed with any type of wine! Try a cold and light white wine with cacio e pepe for a delicious lunch – something with a little acidity to help balanced out the creaminess.
A Sangiovese is perfect and a chenin blanc will also work well. If you prefer red wine, a rich cabernet sauvignon will work well to balance the fragrant cheese.
How to Store
- Room Temperature – Don’t leave out more than two hours.
- Refrigerate – Store in an airtight container up to three days refrigerated. Add a touch of heavy cream or milk to reheat.
- Freeze – Store in an airtight container up to three months in the freezer. Transfer to refrigerator to thaw before reheating.
- Nut Free
Cacio e Pepe
- 1 pound pasta
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
- ⅓ cup Grana Padano grated
- ½ cup Pecorino grated
- Boil pasta, drain and reserve ½ cup pasta water.
- In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add pepper and swirl to toast.
- Reduce heat to low. Add pasta and pasta water. Toss to coat.
- Toss with Grana Padano.
- Remove from heat and toss with Pecorino.
- Cook the pasta al dente. It will continue to cook once it has drained, and again when it is added to the butter. No one like soggy spaghetti!
- This pasta dish is best served as soon as it’s made. If you do have leftovers though, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 days. Reheat the pasta gently on the stovetop or in a microwave.
- Melt the butter on a medium heat so that it doesn’t burn. It should melt but not bubble.
- Cheeses are interchangeable…you can use one or both.
- I grate the cheeses on the finest side of my grater so that it melts quickly and easily to coat the pasta for that comforting creamy texture. The opposite applies for pepper – I turn the grinder to adjust for larger cracks of the peppercorns for texture and added flavor.
Estimated nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is not guaranteed.