Cacio e pepe is a pasta dish that hails from Rome. It means “cheese and pepper” and for such a simple dish, it is incredibly delicious.
If you’ve ever traveled to Rome, you are already well educated in the greatness of Cacio e Pepe. It’s one of the most popular pasta dishes in Rome, and you can find it on just about every restaurant menu. Here’s a great history of the dish from Eating Europe.
As the name suggests, the ingredients of the dish are very simple: grated Pecorino Romano cheese, cracked black pepper, and spaghetti. It’s simple, but it’s delicious. I am unable to resist it when I’m in Rome.
However, it’s almost like it’s too simple to make well. People are out there making it with cream and the wrong cheese. It doesn’t have to be that hard. If you’ve ever wondered how to make this highly gratifying dish at home, we’ve got the recipe you need.
This is about as close to the “real thing” as I can make it. The only thing I’ve changed is the noodles, because pici pasta (which it’s traditionally made with in Italy) is very difficult to find in the U.S. The closest noodles are bucatini, but spaghetti works well too.
Serve it with a glass of Chianti and you’re good to go.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Spaghetti – Fresh. Pici pasta (which it’s traditionally made with in Italy) is very difficult to find in the U.S. The closest noodles are bucatini, but spaghetti works well too.
- Olive oil – The quality of the olive oil is very important because it’s one of the main ingredients. A low-quality or flavorless olive oil won’t add the amazing character and flavor that this puree requires.
- Pecorino Romano cheese – Aged 18+ months. You can substitute Parmesan, if that’s all you can find,
- Salt – To taste
- Black pepper – Freshly cracked to taste.
Making Your Own Pasta
If you want to try your hand at making your own pasta, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s not difficult or scary to make your own pasta.
Here is an incredibly easy homemade pasta recipe that only requires you to mix flour with eggs and knead the dough.
- 2 large eggs
- 200g of 00 flour, plus extra for dusting
Make a mound out of the flour (reserving about 20 grams to use only if necessary). Swirl a whole in the middle of the mound with your fingers. Crack the eggs into the center of the mound.
Using a fork, beat the eggs gently, then start to incorporate the surrounding flour, slowly, until fully combined. Add the extra flour only if the dough is too sticky. Then knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic.
Rolling the Pasta
There are two ways to roll your fresh pasta. You can knead it and roll it out with a rolling pin. This takes a bit of muscle and time, but it’s not difficult. Or you can use a pasta maker. There are three different types of pasta makers.
There is a third, even easier option. If you’ve ever wanted to make fresh pasta, but didn’t want to do the work, you need this.
How much homemade pasta per person?
I recommend a 2 ounce serving of fresh pasta per person. Once the pasta is cooked it equals around 1 cup of pasta, which is a decent serving. The recipe above makes 4 servings.
How to Make Cacio e Pepe
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a pot. Season with salt. When it comes to a boil add the spaghetti to the pot and stir occasionally until al dente, around 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the grated Pecorino Romano cheese, olive oil, and 1/4 cup of the boiling pasta water in a heavy skillet over medium heat, creating a cream. Grind black pepper into the skillet to taste
Once the pasta is fully cooked, drain it into a strainer and add it to the skillet. Mix the pasta with the cream sauce.
Add more olive oil or black pepper to achieve a lighter consistency. Finish the dish with a dusting of Pecorino cheese and additional cracked black pepper.
Tips for Perfect Cacio e Pepe
There are a few things to remember when making this dish.
- You should cook the spaghetti al dente. Don’t overdo it or it’ll get soggy. It’s meant to be served al dente, with a bit of chew left in it.
- Use real, aged Pecorino Romano cheese. Yes you can substitute the cheese for Parmesan, if that’s all you can find, but aged Pecorino Romano is truly where it’s at its best.
- Don’t add cream! The pasta water and the cheese work together to make a very creamy sauce that coats the pasta perfectly. There’s no need to add cream.
Other Pasta Dishes You Might Like
We love pasta around here. We’ve got a few other Italian recipes you might want to try.
- Chicken Caprese Pasta Recipe
- Linguine with White Clam Sauce
- Caprese Ravioli: A Dish That’s Perfect For Summer
- How to Make Perfect Potato Gnocchi
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Cacio e Pepe
- 4 ounces fresh spaghetti
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese Aged 18+ months
- Salt to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a pot. Season with salt.
- Add spaghetti to the pot and stir occasionally until al dente, around 2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine grated Pecorino Romano cheese, olive oil, and ¼ cup of the boiling water in a heavy skillet over medium heat, creating a cream. Grind black pepper into the skillet to taste.
- Once the pasta is fully cooked, drain it in a strainer and add it to the skillet. Mix the pasta with the cream sauce. Add more olive oil or black pepper to achieve a lighter consistency.
- Finish the dish with a dusting of Pecorino cheese and additional cracked black pepper.
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Laura is a home cook, with 25 years experience behind the stove, who spends an extraordinary amount of time in the kitchen cooking. She loves making new recipes and finding wonderful new things to eat, both at home or abroad. She spends a lot of time researching, crafting, and perfecting her recipes and currently has a cookbook in development.