Blog post

Authentic Cacio e Pepe

One of my absolute favorite pasta dishes of all time is Cacio e Pepe. If you have not heard of this traditional Roman dish, it is sure to quickly become one of your favorites! Literally translated as “cheese and pepper” this sauce is made with only 3 ingredients and the entire dish can be on the table in under 10 minutes. The best part is that despite being amazingly creamy and smooth, the sauce does not contain any butter, heavy cream, or milk. Max and I recently made this together as the second course for our pasta date night and we used homemade thick spaghetti made with our Philips Pasta Maker. The dish is traditionally served with Tonnarelli pasta, but the thick spaghetti made a nice substitute.

The key to perfect Cacio e Pepe is all in the technique. As with any recipe, there are many versions available and since this is not a widely known dish, it can be intimidating to choose which one is best. Over time I have tried out several methods with different variations but the one I’ve used consistently for years is the simplest one. It creates perfect cacio e pepe every time without a lot of fluff and fuss.

cacio e pepe

It is important to ensure you start with the correct cheese. You should not buy pre-grated cheese and you should make sure you buy Pecorino Romano cheese, NOT parmesan.

You’ll begin by grating the cheese until you have 1 ½ to 2 cups. Add fresh ground pepper to taste and set aside in a medium bowl. I personally like a ton of pepper in this sauce but how much you use is totally up to you.

cacio e pepe

Bring a pot of water to a rolling bowl and salt the water. Add pasta and cook until al dente.

Remove the pasta from the water but DO NOT discard the water. The used pasta water is the key to your sauce! The starch released from the pasta into the water during the cooking process is sticky, which helps bind the water to the cheese and allows for a smooth, creamy sauce.

Slowly pour a large ladle of pasta water over the pecorino and pepper mixture, stirring quickly as you do so to avoid clumps. I have done this step by myself, but it is MUCH easier with a partner who can pour the water for you while you hold the bowl and stir. It is important that the water is still hot and that you are stirring quickly and vigorously until the water is combined and the sauce is smooth. You can adjust the consistency by adding more water one tablespoon at a time.

Add your pasta to the sauce and toss until completely coated. Garnish with additional Pecorino Romano and pepper and serve!

date night in

This dish is a major crowd pleaser and so easy to whip up once you’ve gotten the hang of the technique! Be sure to check out my other two recipes from my date night in (San Marzano Tomato Sauce and Nut-Free Pesto) and let me know what you think!

Cacio e Pepe
Ingredients
  • 1/2 - 3/4 lb thick spaghetti or tonnarelli
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups aged pecorino romano cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Instructions
  1. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Salt the water.

  2. While the water is heating, grate Pecorino Romano cheese until you have 1 1/2 - 2 cups. Add black pepper and set aside in a medium bowl.

  3. Add pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente

  4. Remove pasta from the water and set aside but DO NOT discard the pasta water

  5. Slowly pour a large ladle of pasta water over the pecorino and pepper mixture while stirring quickly with a spoon. 

    Note: it is important to work quickly during this step to ensure the water stays hot and the cheese does not clump in order to achieve a creamy sauce.

  6. If needed, add more pasta water one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached

  7. Add pasta and coat thoroughly with the sauce

  8. Garnish with additional Pecorino Romano and pepper and serve!

By Paces West

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