Cacio e Pepe is an authentic Italian pasta dish that’s easy to make with just four ingredients! Tender spaghetti is tossed with pepper and a whole lot of pecorino romano cheese. This timeless recipe is easy to execute with a few quick tips and tricks!
Cacio e Pepe
Here in America, it’s easy to mistake Italian-American pasta dishes for the real deal. Much like our Americanized Alfredo Sauce (that everyone loves because it’s amazing)! So make no mistake… Cacio e Pepe is as authentically Italian as it gets! What really makes Cacio e Pepe so incredible is that when made right, it’s incredibly flavorful and creamy and made with just 4 simple ingredients. If you’ve ever heard that this is a challenging dish, have no fear! The black pepper and pecorino romano cheese require a little extra attention, but it’s really nothing too crazy. You’re going to love this easy dinner recipe!
Why Cacio e Pepe is so Hard to Perfectly Execute?
Cacio e Pepe doesn’t have to be hard at all! The key to creamy Cacio e Pepe is emulsifying the cheese into a paste with pasta water, and having that eventually become your sauce. If you try to rush this process and not let the cheese fully incorporate into the water, or if you let it get too hot, your sauce will not be creamy.
How to Make Cacio e Pepe
- Cook the pasta. Boil the pasta according to the package instructions with salt, then remove it from the heat but do not drain.
- Bloom the pepper. Bloom the pepper by tossing it rapidly in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Make a paste. Place the cheese into a bowl and stir in 1 TBSP of the boiling pasta water at a time until it reaches a paste-like consistency.
- Keep adding water. Gradually drizzle in 1/3-1/2 cup more of water, stirring the entire time until it is smooth, and the cheese is fully melted.
- Simmer the pepper. Pour half a cup of pasta water into the pan with the bloomed pepper and let it simmer over medium heat for a minute.
- Add the pasta to the skillet. Strain the pasta from the water using tongs and vigorously toss it in the skillet.
- Emulsify. Pour in more pasta water as needed. Continue tossing vigorously until it starts to emulsify.
- Make it saucy. Pour in the cheese sauce and toss again to combine. Continue stirring and tossing until the sauce is thick and sticks to the pasta.
- Enjoy! Add salt to taste then serve immediately with more grated parmesan or romano and freshly cracked black pepper.
Storing this Pasta for Later
Here’s the deal – Cacio e Pepe is best enjoyed fresh. That’s when it’s the thickest and creamiest. However, you can keep it stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 days. Just note that it might be a little drier once it’s reheated, but it’ll still be good! I do not recommend freezing homemade cacio e pepe.
Why Do I Need to Bloom the Black Pepper?
This simple process makes it so much more flavorful! Be sure not to skip this step. When you heat the black pepper just for a little bit, so much more flavor is extracted.
- Pasta – Spaghetti pasta is most traditional for cacio e pepe. However, you can use any other type of pasta you like best.
- Salt – This is really only necessary for adding to the pasta water. It adds a lot of flavor to the pasta without making it taste salty.
- Black Pepper – Don’t forget to bloom it!
- Cheese – You can use either pecorino romano or freshly grated parmesan cheese. Note that you MUST use freshly grated cheese, and make sure it is grated finely!
Cacio e Pepe
- 16 oz Spaghetti Pasta
- 1 teaspoon Salt plus more to taste
- 2 teaspoon of Ground Black Pepper
- 1 1/2 Cups Pecorino Romano or Parmesan Cheese freshly grated
- Boil the pasta according to the package instructions with the salt then remove it from the heat but do not drain.
- In the meantime, bloom the pepper by tossing it rapidly in a large skillet over medium heat then remove the pan from the heat.
- Place the cheese into a large bowl and stir in a tablespoon of the boiling pasta water at a time until it reaches a paste-like consistency.
- Gradually drizzle in 1/3-1/2 cup more of water, stirring the entire time until it is smooth, and the cheese is fully melted.
- Pour ½ cup of pasta water into the pan with the bloomed pepper and let it simmer over medium heat for a minute.
- Strain the pasta from the water using tongs and vigorously toss it in the skillet.
- Pour in more pasta water as needed and continue tossing vigorously until it starts to emulsify. This usually takes 5-8 minutes.
- Pour in the parmesan cheese sauce and toss again vigorously to combine.
- Continue stirring and tossing until the sauce is thick and sticks to the pasta.
- Add salt to taste then serve immediately with more grated parmesan or Romano and freshly cracked black pepper.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.