Cacio e Pepe is a creamy pasta dish made with spaghetti that is coated with black pepper, freshly grated pecorino romano cheese, and pasta water. It is a simple, yet flavorful plate of pasta made in about 20 minutes with just a few ingredients! For another quick pasta dish packed with flavor, I also have Spaghetti Limone you will want to try!

Cacio e Pepe in a skillet on a table from overhead.

What Is Cacio e Pepe?

Cacio e pepe is a classic Italian pasta dish that translates to ‘cheese and pepper’, which are the two main ingredients used in the recipe. The heat from the pasta and a bit of starchy pasta water help melt the cheese and create a creamy sauce that coats the spaghetti. I also added olive oil to the sauce, which is not authentic, but helped with the overall consistency of the sauce. The dish is then typically finished with an extra sprinkling of cheese and pepper before serving. Although simple, it can sometimes be tricky to get the timing just right when blending the ingredients.

Picking up Cacio e Pepe from skillet.

Ingredients & Substitutions

Pasta: Spaghetti is perfect for soaking up all of the sauce for a perfectly blended cheesy, peppery sauce in each bite. You could also use linguini, fettuccini, bucatini, or other long types of pasta.

Pasta Water: Pasta water is a key ingredient of the cacio e pepe sauce. It, along with the pasta, provides the saltiness in the dish. Continue to add the pasta water until the dish reaches your desired texture and level of creaminess.

Pepper: Freshly ground black pepper is best. When adding it to the skillet, watch it carefully so it does not burn. You can adjust the amount of pepper used if preferred. This recipe will definitely give you a bold pepper taste in each bite!

Oil: Yes, I know that added olive oil to the recipe causes debate, but I love how the oil enhances the flavor and helps with the consistency.

Cheese: For the best results, finely grate high-quality Pecorino Romano cheese. Before adding the cheese to the skillet, remove the skillet from the heat and let it cool for about 30 seconds.

Plates of Cacio e Pepe from overhead.

What To Serve With Cacio e Pepe

Here are some delicious side dishes that pair well with this classic pasta dish:

CLose up of Cacio e Pepe on a plate.

How To Store Cacio e Pepe

To store cacio e pepe, first, let it cool to room temperature. Then, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will last up to 3 days. Reheat the pasta in a skillet with a splash of water over medium heat until heated through. Or, warm it up in a microwave-safe container in the microwave. I had some leftovers, and they were delicious when reheated, too!

Picking up Cacio e Pepe from skillet.
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Cacio e Pepe

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 13 minutes
Total Time 23 minutes
Cacio e Pepe is a creamy pasta dish made with spaghetti that is coated with black pepper, freshly grated pecorino romano cheese, and pasta water. It is a simple, yet flavorful plate of pasta made in about 20 minutes with just a few ingredients!

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups (240 g) finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for garnish
  • salt, to taste

Instructions

  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat, using less water than normal. (This helps to concentrate the starch in the pasta water, which is used to thicken the sauce in this recipe.)
  • Cook the spaghetti until al dente according to package directions, about 8-10 minutes. Do not drain.
  • In the last few minutes of cooking the pasta, add pepper to a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook for 20 seconds to 1 minute, stirring occasionally, until the pepper is fragrant. (Watch carefully, being careful not to burn the pepper.)
  • Add oil and about ½ cup of pasta water, stirring to combine. Using tongs, remove cooked spaghetti directly from the cooking water into the skillet. Stir to coat spaghetti with the olive oil and pepper. Cook for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently. (This allows more starch to cook out.)
  • Remove the skillet from heat, and allow the pan to cool for about 30 seconds. (If the noodles or the pan are too hot, the cheese could separate in the next step.)
  • Working in batches, add the cheese to the skillet. Stir continuously until the cheese is melted and has fully coated the spaghetti. Add more pasta water as needed, ¼ cup at a time, to achieve your desired consistency. If the cheese has separated, return the skillet to the heat until the cheese fully melts and evenly coats the pasta.
  • Garnish with pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese. Salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Video

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What the Test Kitchen had to say about this recipe:

Autumn

There is just something about simple but elegant dishes like this that keeps me coming back for more. I love that this is ready in minutes and is so full of flavor.

Elizabeth

I can't get enough of this pasta! I had never tried this (or heard of it) before, and I love it! It's simple, but so flavorful with the pepper in each bite of pasta.

Rachael

The pepper gives it a nice kick, and this comes together pretty fast! Quite an easy quick dinner option. Add some protein for a full meal.

Annabelle

This pasta has a unique flavor and a great texture. I'd add some steak or chicken to spice it up!

Bella

This is definitely peppery! The Romano cheese gives it a unique taste that I am not used to. It brings a slight tang to the dish! I would probably want some protein with this.

Selena

I hope you love pepper! This dish comes together fairly quickly and has a kick from the pepper and lots of flavor from the cheese.

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Reader Comments

  1. We are diabetics, so we are substituting spiraled zucchini for the pasta! Can’t wait to try this recipe!

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