Cacio e Pepe is a quick cheesy dish that’s sure to hit the spot. This is a comfort food that’s easy and insanely delicious!
Cacio e Pepe Recipe
In Italian cacio e pepe literally means “cheese and pepper.” It is also pronounced “kah-cheeoh eh peh-peh,” So you can sound as authentic as this dish is. This highly addictive dish first popped up in the Roman frontier of cooking and is now a staple all over Italy. This stripped down version of mac and cheese combines the finest and simplest of ingredients to create a restaurant worthy meal right at home. The flavors are simple, authentic and highly addictive.
Your family is going to want you to make this cacio e pepe over and over again. And because it is so easy, you won’t mind doing it. Cacio e pepe is creamy and cheesy but without using heavy cream and lots of fat to do it. Another plus for making this, it is a healthier version of your go to adult version of macaroni and cheese. Perfect! With only 4 ingredients it is an awesome choice for busy weekdays or even a quick romantic dinner for two.
Ingredients for Decadent Cacio e Pepe
This dish is so authentic but so easy. Your going to love the flavor, texture and ease of this dish. With only 4 ingredients you can make this tonight!
- Thick Spaghetti Noodles: If you can’t find a thick spaghetti type noodle, regular spaghetti will work.
- Butter: Adds a bit of richness and flavor to the dish.
- Coarse Ground Pepper: For the best flavor you want it to be coarse ground pepper. It will be worth it.
- Pecorino Romano Cheese: Look for this where your grocery store sells its specialty cheeses. Often with the blocks of parmesan.
Making Authentic Cacio e Pepe
Yes, this is super easy and fast, but you do need to work the sauce just right. Using the pasta water is key to getting that velvety creamy sauce texture without cream or milk.
- Pasta: In a large pot bring the water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente.
- Keep Pasta Water: Reserve one cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta.
- Melt: Add the butter to the pot and melt over medium high heat. Add the pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Cheese: Add 2 cups cheese and pasta back to the pot and toss until cheese has melted and coated. Garnish with additional pepper and cheese.
What Kind of Noodles and Cheese Work Best
The creamy cheesy sauce does best with noodles that can be swaddled in the sauce and hold on to it. You want a noodle that is tender but toothy and doesn’t disappear in your mouth, like angel hair. Make sure to cook your pasta al dente for best results.
- Tonnarelli: This is the pasta traditionally used in this dish if you were to order it in Italy. It is thick and toothy , and holds on to the cheesy sauce in the best way possible. It can also be difficult to find.
- Bucatini: This hollow thick spaghetti is the next best thing and easier to find. It also has a bit of chew and the hollowness fills up with the cheesy sauce, yum!
- Linguine: A bit smaller than fettuccine noodles, it is a great back up choice if you can not find bucatini.
- Spaghetti: Spaghetti works just perfectly, especially when you do not have any of the others on hand. Cooked al dente and you have the perfect noodle for this amazing cheesy dish.
- Cheese: If you are going to make this Cacio e Pepe splurge and make it with the right cheese. You will not regret it. It is has a stronger, saltier flavor than parmesan that combines perfectly with the fresh ground pepper.
Tips for Perfect Cacio e Pepe
There are a few tips you will want to follow to make sure your sauce does not end up clumpy and your pasta a greasy mess. All it takes is a bit of technique and your cacio e pepe will be perfect every single time.
- Not too much water: You want your pasta water to be very stachy, so cook your noodles in the smallest amount of water that will still cook your noodles. About 2 quarts of water is all you need and collect your pasta water after it is done cooking to get the most starch. I also like to reserve a bit more water than I think I will need.
- Add the Pasta Water before the Cheese and Noodles: Once the butter and pepper have cooked, remove from heat and slowly add in the pasta water whisking to combine. Once it has combined let it sit for 3 minutes.
- Add the Cheese a little at a time: Allowing the water to sit for a few minutes will make sure the water is not too hot, which can cause the cheese to seize and clump. Whisk constantly as you add the cheese and place on a burner on low heat. Stir constantly till melted.
- Add Noodles half at a time: Stir in the first half of the noodles and stir to coat. Then add the rest adding more pasta water as needed to thin sauce.
- Finely Grate your own cheese: For the best cheese results you need to grate your own and use the smallest holes on your grater. Pre grated usually has anti caking agents that prevent melting. Also grate your cheese before you start the cooking process. You only have a few minutes before it needs to be added to the butter and water, you want to be ready ahead of time.
- Pepper: For the best flavor use coarse ground pepper. It gives the best bite and flavor. It is totally worth the grinding!
More Italian Inspired Dishes to Make
Italian food is synonymous with comfort food. Italian includes pots of pasta, comforting soups, hearty dishes, and don’t forget the breads! Oh and of course there is the pizza. Although you many not find our pizza in Italy the flavor profile is the same. Italian food is high on my list of some of my all time favorites. Not only that but they are often super easy to make. They use simple ingredients and combine them into fantastic flavors. And Italian food is usually easy to make. So when the cravings for something Italian inspired hits, reach for these tried and true favorites.
- Slow Cooker Italian Beef
- Classic Italian Wedding Soup
- Quick and Easy Stromboli
- Three Cheese Stuffed Pasta Shells
- Incredible Homemade Calzones
Cacio e Pepe
- 1 pound thick spaghetti or fettuccine or linguine
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground coarse black pepper
- 2 1/2 cups Pecorino Romano Cheese divided
In a large pot bring the water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente.
Reserve one cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta.
Add the butter to the pot and melt over medium high heat. Add the pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
Add 2 cups cheese and pasta back to the pot and toss until cheese has melted and coated. Garnish with additional pepper and cheese.
The Recipe Critic