Thursday, September 16, 2021

Cacio e Pepe Recipe

This cacio e pepe recipe is ready in 15 minutes with only five simple ingredients. Keep pasta and Parmigiano on hand and you’ll never go hungry!

Tender noodles coated with a salty, buttery sauce will satisfy any carb craving you may have. Plus, it looks positively gourmet with very little effort!

Everyone should have an easy pasta recipe (or five!) handy for when the day just seems to get away from you.

Lucky for you, I have dozens to choose from ranging from one pot meals to skillet favorites that are ready in under 30 minutes.

cacio e pepe recipe on a plate
What is cacio e pepe?

The name of this simple pasta dish literally translates to “cheese and pepper” because that’s basically all you need to make it!

Both of those ingredients are combined with starchy pasta water to create a silky smooth sauce. Toss that with cooked noodles and you’re ready to dig in.

easy pasta recipe ingredients

Cacio e Pepe Recipe Tips

  • Reserve your pasta water! This is the secret ingredient for this dish because it acts as the base for the sauce. Be sure to boil the noodles in less water than normal so it’s extra starchy.
  • Don’t rinse the spaghetti. Avoid tossing them with olive oil as well. Yes - the strands will probably stick together, but that will be fixed as soon as you toss them with the buttery sauce.
  • Want a bolder flavor? Sprinkle on some extra Parmigiano and pepper before serving.

Serving Suggestions

The beauty of this cacio e pepe recipe is that it comes together quickly and requires very little prep.

Keep your meal simple with a side salad and some crusty bread to mop up any leftover sauce. Or, toss in a batch of garlic knots while the noodles are boiling.

cacio pepe - a cast iron skillet with butter

Kitchen Tools You Will Need

  • Large Pot and Strainer for the noodles
  • Wide Skillet - Ideally, it should be 10 to 12 inches in diameter so there’s plenty of room to toss everything together. Cast iron would be fine as well.
  • A Microplane Zester creates tiny cheese curls that melt seamlessly into the butter and water. If you don’t have one, use the tiniest holes on a Box Grater instead.
  • Tongs - These really help this easy pasta recipe come together quickly.

FAQ - Common Recipe Questions

Can I use a different cheese for cacio e pepe?

Yes. While Parmigiano is saltier than other varieties and melts beautifully into the sauce, it can sometimes be hard to find or outside of your budget.

Grana Padano is very similar but has a softer, less crumbly texture. In a pinch, Pecorino Romano is a close substitute.

No matter which variety you choose, be sure to grate it by hand for best results.

cacio e pepe recipe in a cast iron pan

What else can I add to this dish?

Saute a clove or two of minced garlic in the butter for extra flavor or add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for some heat.

You could also chop up a few strips of bacon or a rotisserie chicken for some added protein. If you’ve got the time, my lemon garlic shrimp would really put this dish over the top!

Can I double this easy pasta recipe?

Absolutely! It does make enough for 4 to 6 servings, but you can easily increase the amounts if you plan on feeding a crowd.

cacio pepe


With love from our simple kitchen to yours. 

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cacio e pepe recipe twirled around a fork

Yield: 4-6
Author: Donna Elick
Cacio e Pepe Recipe

Cacio e Pepe Recipe

This cacio e pepe recipe is ready in 15 minutes with only five simple ingredients. Keep pasta and Parmigiano on hand and you’ll never go hungry!
Prep time: 5 MinCook time: 10 MinTotal time: 15 Min


  • 16 ounces bucatini pasta or spaghetti
  • kosher salt, for the pasta water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon fresh coarse ground pepper
  • 1 cup shredded Parmigiano cheese


  1. Fill a large pot with at least 7 quarts of water, bring to a boil over high heat..
  2. Once it is boiling, add a small handful of salt, and then add the pasta. Cook according to the manufacturer's directions. Cook until the pasta is “al dente” (it will still have a bite to it, not mushy).
  3. Ladle 1 1/2 cups of pasta water into a measuring cup and then drain your pasta.
  4. It will stick together; you will be tempted to olive oil but don’t. The next step is where the magic happens
  5. In a large (10-12-inch) skillet, over low heat, add your butter and the pasta water. Let it cook until the butter is melted, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add fresh ground pepper, stir the sauce.
  7. Add the cheese and stir, you will have a very liquidy cheese sauce.
  8. Add approximately ¼ of the pasta to the skillet, mix until pasta is coated. Because you did not add oil or butter to the pasta, this butter/pepper mixture will absorb into the pasta.
  9. Continue adding the pasta in increments and always mix so all spaghetti is coated before adding more. For this step I like to use kitchen tongs. Makes it easier to mix.
  10. Serve and enjoy!
  11. You may want to sprinkle some fresh pepper or more Parmigiano cheese on top. This step is optional.

Cacio e Pepe Recipe closeup

Originally published September 2021

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