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.

A silver pan full of cacio e pepe noodles, blue towel wrapped around handle on a marble surface.
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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 on a white plate with a gold fork.

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).

What is Cacio e Pepe?

  • In Italian, cacio e pepe translates directly to “cheese and pepper”.
  • A centuries-old staple in Roman cuisine, it’s an incredibly simple dish made with a long, slender pasta and lots of spicy pepper and fresh cheese.
  • Unlike alfredo, there’s no cheesy sauce requiring decadent heavy cream.
  • In this dish, simplicity truly shines, and every ingredient matters. It’s so simple that it’s hard to believe it could taste so good!
Close up of cacio e pepe.

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.
Ingredients for cacio e pepe laid out on a white marble countertop.

Variations

  • 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

  1. Prepare Pasta – Boil pasta, drain and reserve ½ cup pasta water.
  2. Prepare Sauce – In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add pepper and swirl to toast.  Chunks of butter melting in a silver stainless steel skillet.
  3. Toss – Reduce heat to low. Add pasta and pasta water. Toss to coat. Toss with Grana Padano. Cacio e pepe in a stainless steel skillet on a stovetop. Cacio e pepe in a stainless steel skillet on a stovetop.
  4. Add Cheese – Remove from heat and toss with Pecorino. A silver pan on a stove top, filled with cacio e pepe spaghetti.

Shortcuts

  • 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!

Make More (or Less!)

Scaling up, down or substituting? You’ll love this printable Measurement Conversion Chart!

Cacio e pepe on a white plate with a gold fork.

Tips

  • 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.
Cacio e pepe on a white plate with a gold fork.

Serving Suggestions

What goes well with cacio e pepe? So many things. Find more inspiration in my guide to the best Italian Side Dishes.

A silver pan full of cacio e pepe noodles, blue towel wrapped around handle on a marble surface.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you keep cheese from clumping in cacio e pepe?

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.

What is the best wine to serve with cacio e pepe?

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.

Dietary Considerations

  • Vegetarian
  • Nut Free
Cacio e pepe on a white plate with a gold fork.

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More Pasta Inspiration

Cacio e pepe on a white plate with a gold fork.
4.85 from 19 votes

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe is a simple pasta dish that is rich and full of flavor for an easy weeknight dinner! Made with simple ingredients, this dish comes together in 20 minutes.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
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Ingredients  

  • 1 pound pasta
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
  • cup Grana Padano grated
  • ½ cup Pecorino grated

Instructions 

  • 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.

Tips

  • 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.

Video

Calories: 436kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 43mg | Sodium: 284mg | Potassium: 189mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 430IU | Calcium: 175mg | Iron: 1mg

Estimated nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is not guaranteed.

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16 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Just finished enjoying this delicious and easy peasy recipe. I used some leftover fettuccine pasta that I had in the pantry, a wedge of Parmesan and it was fantastic!

  2. 5 stars
    Wow, a go to, now, for a twist on an old-time favorite (buttered noodles). Love seeing what you come up with and kudos on your blog.