Cacio e pepe is a simple, authentic Italian pasta dish made with just four ingredients in 20 minutes. It's so easy to make by tossing freshly cooked pasta in a buttery, cheesy, and peppery sauce. Serve it fresh for a delicious and flavourful weeknight dinner or on any night of the week. Comfort food has never been easier!
If you love how fast this all comes together, then you will also love these other pasta dishes that take less than 20 minutes to prep and cook: Spaghetti Carbonara, Pesto Penne Pasta, Stovetop Mac and Cheese with White Cheddar, and Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo Pasta Bake.
What is Cacio e Pepe?
Cacio e pepe is a classic Italian dish originating in Rome. It literally translates to “cheese and pepper” which describes the main ingredients in this dish. It's basically a simple version of mac and cheese and not as heavy on the cheese.
Ingredients in Cacio e Pepe
To make easy cacio e pepe, you need just 5 simple ingredients:
- pasta - I used spaghetti noodles but any long noodle will work such as bucatini (this is what is traditionally used), linguine, or fettuccine.
- butter - traditionally cacio e pepe doesn't have butter, but I just love the flavour that it adds.
- ground black pepper
- cheese - Pecorino cheese is traditionally used, or you can use Parmesan as a substitute (which is what we do). Either way, use freshly grated cheese, not pre-grated cheese.
How to Make the Best Cacio e Pepe
- Cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium high heat. Add pasta and cook until just al dente (fully cooked but still firm), about 8 minutes, or according to package directions. Turn off the heat and set the pot aside. Do not overcook the pasta.
- Prepare the sauce. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a shallow saucepan over medium-high heat. Add black pepper and sauté until fragrant, about one minute. Add about ⅓ cup hot pasta water and stir vigorously to combine. A vigorous whisking emulsifies fat from the butter and pasta water, creating a creamy sauce.
- Toss in spaghetti and cheese. Turn the heat down to low and transfer the hot pasta into the saucepan. Stir in cheese and stir well to combine, about one minute. The melted cheese makes the sauce thicker and more creamy. Add 2-3 tablespoons pasta water and mix well until desired consistency is reached.
- Serve. Serve immediately on a plate and garnish with extra pepper and cheese if desired.
- How to customize. You can customize cacio e pepe by adding in cooked meat such as chicken, shrimp, or bacon. You can also add in cooked vegetables such as mushrooms, zucchini, red peppers, or spinach.
- How to serve. Serve cacio e pepe pasta with a side of crusty garlicky bread such as pull apart garlic bread, rosemary garlic focaccia bread, ciabatta bread, or tomato focaccia bread. You can also pair it with a fresh salad on the side such as an easy Greek salad, Mediterranean chickpea wedge salad, or tomato cucumber avocado salad.
- How to store. Cacio e pepe is best served fresh. Store any leftovers an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Reheat on the stove over medium-low heat until warmed through. You may need to add a splash of water if the sauce has thickened up too much in the refrigerator.
More Pasta Recipes
- Avocado Basil Pesto Spaghetti
- Spaghetti Bolognese
- Cheesy Tortellini and Sausage Bake
- Spaghetti and Meatballs
- Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo Pasta Bake
- White Chicken and Spinach Lasagna
Did you make this recipe? I would greatly appreciate a comment and rating below, letting me know what you thought of the recipe. You can also snap a picture and tag me on Instagram @aheadofthyme or share it on the Pinterest pin so that I can follow along.