My Cacio e Pepe recipe is the perfect pasta recipe is so many, many ways. Want a classic, rustic Italian dish? Check. Never made Italian pasta recipes before and want to ease in with something delicious yet simple? Check. Want to pay homage to two of the most scrumptious food items to come out of Italy — noodles and cheese? Check check.
Whatever your reason for making cacio e pepe, or “cheese and pepper,” you’re in for a mouthwatering Italian getaway!
Grab you cheese graters and pepper grinders — let’s get cooking!
I know a lot of home cooks who shy away from my Cacio e Pepe recipe because the name is offputtingly fancy. But I’m here to promise you that this is the easiest dive into Italian cooking you manage.
Trust me! You’ll be singing Cacio e Pepe praises in no time.
- Simple ingredients
- No muss, no fuss
- Minimal clean-up
- Picky eater paradise!
- True Italian roots
There are only five ingredients in my Cacio e Pepe recipe. And two of them are cheese! Sound like something you want to try yet?
If you’re feeling really creative, you can even spring for cacio e pepe giallo zafferano — which is my recipe, but with some ever-luscious yellow saffron (the “giallo zafferano”) tossed in for an added level of elegance.
But if you want to stick with the basics for now, I’ve got some notes to help guide you to pasta heaven!
Cheese, please! Both parmesan and pecorino? They’re both Italian cheeses — can they really be that different? Yes! The major difference is that parmesan is made from cow’s milk while pecorino is from sheep. That and other differences bring two completely different flavors to this dish!
Butter: While my recipe is much richer and fully-rounded with true butter, you can always substitute margarine if you’re watching the fat and calories. I’m one of those people who can’t really taste the difference (unless it’s in baked goods!), so go for the tubs if you’re looking for a healthier option.
Pepper: Pepper is one of the stars of this dish, after the cheese! But what kind of peppercorn is best? There’s been a wave of love for pink peppercorns lately, and while they do bring a different flavor profile to dishes, they aren’t actually peppercorns at all!
Pink peppercorns are much more delicate than the hearty, flavorful black peppercorns, so I recommend sticking with the original for this dish.
Pasta picks: I recommend using traditional spaghetti noodles for my recipe, but feel free to experiment with other types of pasta! But if you use thicker noodles, like fettuccine, you will have to alter the cooking time.
I have a confession to make: I’m still hopeless when it comes to properly measuring out spaghetti. Either I make too little or I make enough to feed all of Italy — there is no in-between!
For those nights when I make more spaghetti than any one family could ever finish off, I turn to a few tried and true storage methods to make sure I get the longest life possible out of my leftovers. Read on!
Can You Freeze This?
You can freeze spaghetti! Though not for very long, alas — especially with cheese, like my Cacio e Pepe recipe has. Noodles tend to lose their structure in the freezer’s low temps, so your leftovers will only be edible up to two months.
Once you thaw your frozen Cacio e Pepe, you can always toss in a tablespoon or two of water when you reheat it to revive the noodles.
Make Ahead Tips
My whole recipe takes no longer than forty minutes max to make — all because the dish comes together so quickly once you start! For that reason, there really isn’t a whole lot you can do ahead of time.
I don’t recommend cooking your pasta ahead of time, as the longer your cooked pasta sits in your fridge without sauce, the stickier it will get. But I promise this dish is very time-friendly!
How Long Can You Keep This In The Fridge?
I highly recommend you invest in some good-quality airtight containers. I prefer glass, so I can reheat refrigerated portions right in the dish, but there are many good plastic ones too. Once you’ve portioned your leftovers, either individually or all in one, you can store my Cacio e Pepe recipe in the fridge for up to five days.
My Cacio e Pepe recipe is so simple, you can’t help but add variations! Here are some of my favorites:
How Do Other Cities Make This Recipe?
As expected, Cacio e Pepe Rome tends to be more on the traditional side, with simple, hearty local ingredients. Cacio e Pepe NYC — which is actually a restaurant in and of itself — can be anywhere from traditional to showing off such outrageous ingredients as cauliflower!
Cacio e Pepe London plays on elevating this dish, sometimes using as little as three ingredients (noodles, cheese, and pepper — nothing else!).
How Do Famous Chefs Make This Recipe?
So many chefs swear by this simplest of dishes, calling it “Italian mac n’ cheese”! Cacio e Pepe Anthony Bourdain places this delicate, decadent pasta dish in a parmesan cup (yum!). Cacio e Pepe recipe Giada uses olive oil as well as a few handfuls of fresh arugula to give the dish a green bite. There’s no wrong way to make it!
Can I Add Other Flavor?
My Cacio e Pepe recipe is just begging to be tweaked! Taco pasta would only be a few ingredients off — Mexican seasoning, some ground beef. Yum! If you want other types of Mexican twists, Taco stuffed shells are individual-sized bites of happiness.
For a slightly more northern take, cajun pasta will make your tastebuds dance and sing!
And who can not love pizza pasta? Two Italian favorites in one delightful dish!
What Other Types Of Pasta Can I Substitute?
Mostaccioli, otherwise known as penne, would be a delicious noodle for this delicate, buttery cheese sauce. I always love the thick tubes of rigatoni, or even cannelloni — anything tube-shaped with plenty of surface area to soak up that sauce!
What Other Ingredients Can I Add?
The buttery cheese cause in my Cacio e Pepe recipe pairs perfectly with another Italian favorite — try mushroom pasta! Or give your meal a bright burst with lemon garlic pasta.
Another pasta pleaser is Beefaroni, but homemade! You’ll never touch the canned stuff again.
Cacio e Pepe
- 12 ounces spaghetti
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and divided
- 2 teaspoons fresh cracked pepper
- 1 1/2 cups finely grated Parmesan
- 2/3 cup Pecorino
- 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
- Cook spaghetti in well-salted water according to package instructions. Cook just to al dente. Before draining reserve 2 cups of pasta water.
- In a large heavy skillet, over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in pepper, and cook, for about 45 seconds. Add spaghetti stirring to coat with pepper butter.
- Reduce heat and add Parmesan and Pecorino, tossing the pasta with tongs to coat evenly until cheese is melted.
- Gradually add 1 1/2 cups reserved pasta water to the skillet, adding just enough so pasta isn't soupy. Bring to a simmer, continuing toss with tongs, so pasta doesn't become a solid block. Toss in remaining butter.
- Add more pasta water if pasta seems dry, tossing constantly. Sauce will thicken and absorb as it continues to simmer and sit so add more pasta water accordingly. Transfer to warm serving dish, sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Did my Cacio e Pepe recipe turn you on to the delectable wonders of Italian cooking? Want more? I thought so! Here are some of my hand-picked pasta delights:
- One Pot Pasta – Perfect for busy nights!
- Pasta Primavera – As fresh as it sounds!
- Greek Pasta – Italy meets Greece in one dish.
- Manicotti – Ricotta cheese at its best.
- Ravioli – Hearty comfort food.
How’d you do? Was my Cacio e Pepe recipe as intimidating as you thought? Did you end up with a newfound appreciation for Italian cooking? I hope so!
What dishes are you going to try next? Let me know in the comments!