Cacio e Pepe Recipe

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This Cacio e Pepe Recipe is ready in 15 minutes with only five simple ingredients. It makes a delectable cheese and pepper pasta that even the pickiest of eaters will love. Keep noodles and Parmigiano on hand and you’ll never go hungry!

titled: Cacio e Pepe Recipe


Cacio e Pepe Recipe

Tender noodles coated with a salty, buttery sauce will satisfy any carb craving you may have. Plus, this easy cacio e pepe 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.

measured ingredients for cacio e pepe

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.

melting butter in a cast iron skillet

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Pasta – Spaghetti is the top choice for an authentic cacio e pepe recipe, though bucatini is a close second.
  • Salt and Pepper – Pay close attention — the salt goes in the water and not in the final dish!

    Instead, use freshly cracked black pepper alone to season the buttery cheese sauce.
  • Parmesan Cheese – Grab a wedge of the best stuff you can find for this cacio e pepe recipe, ideally Parmigiano Reggiano.

    Shred it using the small or medium holes on your cheese grater to help it melt quickly and smoothly.

Prep Ahead

  • Shred the Parmesan cheese
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil
spaghetti with ground pepper in cast iron skillet

Tips and Tricks to Make an Authentic Cacio e Pepe Recipe

  • Reserve your pasta water!

This is the secret ingredient for an authentic cacio e pepe recipe 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. And stash some extra in the fridge for reheating leftovers!

  • Don’t rinse the spaghetti.

Avoid tossing the noodles 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.

  • Have ingredients ready to go.

This recipe for cacio e pepe comes together quickly once you get started!

Don’t think you can multitask either — you’ll need the starchy water to start the sauce.

After that, you’ll be ready to plate in about 5 minutes.

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.

Want a bolder flavor? Sprinkle on some extra Parmigiano and pepper before serving.

Kitchen Tools You Will Need

  • Large Pot and Strainer for the pasta
  • Cast Iron Skillet – There are a ton of brands out there, but this is my trusty inexpensive go-to.
  • Box Grater – As much as I love buying bagged shreds because it’s easier, freshly grated cheese melts down so much smoother and tastes better too.
  • Tongs – It’s much easier to get every strand of spaghetti coated in the butter cheese sauce with tongs!

Easy Cacio e Pepe FAQ

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.

What else can I add to cheese and pepper pasta?

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 to add some protein to this cacio e pepe recipe.

If you’ve got the time, my lemon garlic shrimp would really put this dish over the top!

Can I double this easy cacio e pepe recipe?

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

plates of cacio e pepe with dish of extra parmesan

Storing and Reheating Cheese and Pepper Pasta

Once cool, transfer leftovers to an airtight container and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.

Reheat pasta on the stove over medium-low heat, tossing frequently until evenly warmed. It helps to add a splash of water for moisture — use extra pasta water if you have it.

cacio e pepe in a pot

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close up: cheesy pepper pasta twirled onto fork

cacio e pepe, close up

Cacio e Pepe Recipe

Donna Elick
This Cacio e Pepe recipe is ready in 15 minutes with five simple ingredients. Keep pasta and Parmigiano on hand and you’ll never go hungry!
5 stars from 4 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 image (and shown): cacio e pepe recipe

Originally published September 2021, updated and republished January 2024

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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!

  2. 5 stars
    I cooked this for dinner tonight. It was so delicious and so easy! My husband requested we add this to our regular dinner rotation!

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