Cacio e Pepe Recipe

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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.

titled collage for cacio e pepe recipe


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.

melting butter in cast iron skillet

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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.

cooked spaghetti noodles in cast iron skillet

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 e pepe on plate


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spaghetti with black pepper and Pecorino Romano twirled on a fork

cacio e pepe, close up

Cacio e Pepe Recipe

Donna Elick
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!
5 stars from 2 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine Italian
Method Stovetop
Servings 4 – 6


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


  • Fill a large pot with at least 7 quarts of water, bring to a boil over high heat..
  • 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).
  • Ladle 1 1/2 cups of pasta water into a measuring cup and then drain your pasta.
  • It will stick together; you will be tempted to olive oil but don’t. The next step is where the magic happens
  • 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.
  • Add fresh ground pepper, stir the sauce.
  • Add the cheese and stir, you will have a very liquidy cheese sauce.
  • 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.
  • Continue adding the pasta in increments and always mix so all spaghetti is coated before adding more.
  • *NOTE* For this step I like to use kitchen tongs. Makes it easier to mix.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Donna’s Notes

You may want to sprinkle some fresh pepper or more Parmigiano cheese on top. This step is optional.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 620cal | Carbohydrates: 86g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 47mg | Sodium: 409mg | Sugar: 3g | Fiber: 4g | Calcium: 325mg | Iron: 2mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
titled collage for black pepper pasta recipe

Originally published September 2021

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  1. 5 stars
    Delicious! I’ve made this 3 times now and serve it with crusty, buttered garlic bread. I make extra sauce. I had gotten so tired of tomato based sauces and this is lighter than an Alfredo sauce. I could eat this every week. Thanks for sharing!

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