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A simple, authentic recipe for Cacio e Pepe – a classic Roman pasta recipe with only 4 ingredients, that can be made in 20 minutes flat. Video. Looking for more easy dinners? Check out our 50+ Easy Dinner Ideas!
Originating in Rome, Cacio e Pepe literally translates to “cheese and pepper”. Although this Italian pasta dish seems very simple on the surface, it is incredibly flavorful and satisfying with just four ingredients!
Pronounced kaa·chee·ow –ee-peh·peh, I often think of Cacio e Pepe as Italy’s version of mac and cheese- but so much lighter, simpler and faster than ours! Use it as a base for seasonal veggies or your choice of protein.
But don’t get me wrong, it really doesn’t need anything added to it- it is very satisfying just on its own.
Cacio e Pepe | 60-second Video
Ingredients in Cacio e Pepe
- Pasta – good-quality spaghetti, linguini, bucatini or almost any pasta! Store-bought or homemade.
- Black Peppercorns– freshly cracked pepper is a must!
- Pecorino Cheese- finely ground.
- Olive oil for drizzling, herbs for sprinkling, chili flakes for heat- all optional.
What does not belong in Authentic Cacio e Pepe
Butter or parmesan. 😉
How to make Authentic Cacio e Pepe
STEP ONE: Cook the pasta in salted water to al dente -reserving the hot pasta water!
STEP TWO: Toast fresh cracked pepper in a skillet for one minute.
Then add 1/2 cup pasta water, and bring to a gentle simmer, to create the “pepper water”. Simmer on low.
STEP THREE: Add 1/2 cup pasta water to a bowl with your pecorino cheese, to create a paste.
TIP- pulse pecorino cheese in your food processor to get it finely ground, like you see here. When purchasing pecorino cheese, if it is pre-grated, check the label for “caking agents” which can prevent the cheese from getting really creamy in the final dish.
Pour the hot pasta water into the cheese to create a paste or slurry.
Set this aside until ready to use.
STEP FOUR: Add the al dente pasta to skillet and stir with the “pepper water” and cook until the pasta is cooked to perfection.
The pasta will continue to release starch into the water, creating a creamy “sauce” even without the cheese.
Stir in the pecorino “paste” and combine, adding more pasta water as needed.
The cheese will melt into a creamy sauce. Add more pasta water to loosen if you like.
Divide among bowls and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with parsley and chili flakes if you like.
Ways to enhance Cacio e Pepe
Top Cacio e Pepe with your favorite seasonal veggie or your choice of protein. I love it topped with our Sauteed Mushrooms or our 15-Minute Broccoli. So Good!
Feel free to add a protein: chickpeas, chicken, fish, shrimp.
Blanch quick-cooking veggies right in the salted pasta water at the end of cooking (broccoli, asparagus, snow peas, English peas, edamame, fava beans!)
Here we added blanched fava beans. Or, toss in a few handfuls of fresh greens- spinach, arugula, or kale.
Garnish with more cheese and pepper if you like!
Cacio e Pepe is such a delicious base for most any veggie!
More pasta recipes you may like
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Cacio e Pepe Recipe
- Prep Time: 5
- Cook Time: 20
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 2-3 1x
- Category: Vegetarian Main
- Method: stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
- Diet: Vegetarian
A simple, delicious recipe for Cacio e Pepe is so tasty you will want to make it over and over. Serve it with your favorite veggie for an added burst of nutrition.
- 8 ounces linguini, spaghetti or bucatini (to make fresh pasta see notes below
- 1/2–1 teaspoon fresh ground black peppercorns, more to taste
- 1/2 cup shredded pecorino romano, more for serving
- Optional: garnish with olive oil, chili flakes or aleppo pepper, parsley or basil.
Optional additions: Veggies (add to pasta water at the end and blanch for a few minutes: broccoli, asparagus, snow peas, English peas, fava beans, edamame, etc.) Or sauteed mushrooms, or roasted veggies (like asparagus, butternut or cauliflower) or grilled veggies. Or toss in spinach, arugula or kale at the end of cooking. Sometimes, a little lemon zest is nice too. 😉
- Cook Pasta in 8 cups of water with 1 teaspoon of salt– according to package directions. Drain, reserving 2 cups of the hot pasta water.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Toast fresh crushed peppercorn, in the dry skillet for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add 1/2 cup pasta water, simmer on low for a couple minutes.
- In a small bowl, mix pecorino cheese with 1/2 cup hot pasta water to create a slurry or paste. Set aside.
- Add the cooked pasta to the “pepper water” in the skillet, over medium-low heat, stirring. Add more pasta water so it gets it a little saucy if needed. Stir in the pecorino paste, adding more hot pasta water as needed to get a creamy consistency.
- Taste for salt and pepper, adjust to taste. Add more pasta water, cheese or pepper if you like. Feel free to fold in cooked veggies, or shrimp, etc (or serve these on top).
- To serve, divide, sprinkle each portion with more pecorino, chili flakes, parsley and hearty drizzle of olive oil.
Pecorino: If using straight pecorino– keep in mind it is quite salty, so go lighter on the salt in the pasta water- 1 teaspoon salt per 8 cups of water. Pecorino is saltier than Parmesan, which adds nice depth here. Parmesan is tangier, less salty, so you may need to add.
TIP: Preshredded pecorino may contain caking agents which can prevent the sauce from getting super creamy- check the label! I like to shred my own in a food processor– up to you. 🙂
Mushrooms: to elevate, add sauteed mushrooms with a hint of truffle oil. Divine!
Broccoli: on busy nights I throw broccoli florets right into the pasta water at the end and cook for just a few minutes, adding both to the skillet.
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 349
- Sugar: 3.9 g
- Sodium: 895.1 mg
- Fat: 11.8 g
- Saturated Fat: 2.4 g
- Carbohydrates: 49.9 g
- Fiber: 4.3 g
- Protein: 11.5 g
- Cholesterol: 4.9 mg
Keywords: Cacio e Pepe, Cacio e Pepe Recipe, easy cacio e pepe recipe, best Cacio e Pepe
This quick recipe got rave reviews from even hard to please diners. I love that the recipes are consistently great on this website, but leave room for customization and tweaking to your personal taste preferences. Because the sauce is fairly simple, I think it is worthwhile to get a really good pasta. Luckily, I have a pasta shop nearby and their homemade truffle salt pasta really stole the show with this sauce. I used good parm, because that is what I had, added some alleppo pepper and olive oil (per the notes), a lump of garlic butter I had leftover, a dash of cream, squeeze of lemon, and broccoli (also per notes). This is a great weeknight fast dinner.
Great to hear Lynn!
I made this last night, using the written recipe which is quite different than the recipe listed above in the blog post, which seems a little more authentic compared to other recipes. It was okay, but next time I plan to try using the other method with the pepper water and pecorino paste. Just a heads up that you may want to adjust the written recipe portion to match!
Oh my goodness Alison- thanks for pointing this out! My updated recipe card did not save. Fixed it, and it is correct now. Really appreciate this! Yes using the “paste method” produces a creamier sauce!
I have just realised I forgot to rate this dish…..5 stars of course!
Perfect! I made with gluten free pasta from Trader Joe’s and I made your sautéed mushrooms to top it off. Amazing!
Glad you enjoyed!
I have made this a few times….delicious! It is cold, wet and miserable here in the Netherlands…. but all your recipes are ‘Sunshine on a Plate’
Ahhhh… I love that! Thanks so much Janet. 🙂
Parmesan cheese is not vegetarian. What other cheese can be substituted?
You could try our Vegan Cheesy Sprinkle or buy vegan parmesan. 😉
We LOVE cacio e pepe and have tried numerous recipes before noticing your recipe here. Yours is delicious! The only addition I made wad adding two drops of black pepper essential oil to the olive oil since we like it super peppery. Question: I always run into clumps, no matter how many different techniques I have tried. Any thoughts?
Such a brilliant idea! love that! So when is it clumping? is it the pasta, or the cheese you think?
I believe it was when I added the pasta water. It also sticks to my mixing tongs.
Hummm, I’m not sure here. Have you ever tried using finely ground pecorino versus shaved or grated?
Finely grated. Thanks for your help! I won’t stop trying 😉
I have found a work around to my clumping but will definitely try the new paste method!
Simple and Delicious. I’ve always enjoyed the process of shelling and preparing favs beans.
Hello, yeah this piece of writing is actually pleasant and I have learned
lot of things from it on the topic of blogging.
I hope you are well?
Are fava beans broad beans can you tell me please?
All the best,
Hi Karen, Yes thanks, all is well! I’m pretty sure that they are the same – a different name for the same bean. 😉