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Cacio e Pepe (Pasta with Cheese and Pepper)

Here is your summer side dish for grilled meats. This simple pasta dish of cheese and cracked black pepper is one of my family's favorites. If you've ever been to Rome, you will see this dish on practically every menu.  It is simple and fast to make. Once your water is boiling, it is a 5 minute preparation.

You will see variations of this dish with butter or garlic or onion - none of them belong in true Cacio e Pepe. Keep it simple and use the best Pecorino cheese you can find and fragrant peppercorns.  With so few ingredients, the quality will make the difference.

I was talking with someone the other day about starch sides - potatoes, rice, etc. I mentioned that the only starch my family likes as a side dish is pasta and this person said they never thought about using pasta as a side dish, only a main entree.  I was a little surprised.  If you are one of those people. try pasta as a side dish this summer. I figure about 1-1/2 ounces of dry pasta per person as a side. 


Cacio e Pepe 

for a printable recipe, click here

serves 4-6


  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons cracked fresh pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese


Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese and cracked black pepper 
are the flavors of this dish



Bring a heavy pot of salted water to a boil and boil the spaghetti until very al dente.  (For instance if I use Barilla thin spaghetti  I cook it for exactly 4 minutes, less than what the package instructions are).

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet with the olive oil.  Add the cracked pepper and gently saute gently for a few minutes, letting the pepper infuse the oil. Remove from the heat.

With tongs, remove the boiled pasta and place right into the skillet (do not drain the pasta water).  Swirl to coat with the olive oil and pepper. Let the pasta cool a bit (adding the cheese too soon an cause the cheese to clump up from the heat). Add some of cheese and continue swirling the pasta to coat with the cheese.  If it is too dry, add a tablespoon of the pasta water and continue to coat the pasta. It is important to keep stirring.  Add more cheese and stir.  If it is stil too dry, add another tablespoon of pasta water and stir.

Serve immediately.


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Reader Comments (61)

One of my favorites, I could eat the entire pot!

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterstacey snacks

I lovelovelove this dish. I've been making it almost every Friday for a month. I usually drizzle a little bit of lemon juice over it before I dive in.

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

Speaking as the Italian that I am, one could not make a better side dish or main meal.

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrecipejoe

One of my all time favorite pasta dishes. It doesn't get better or simpler than this!

I only learned about this dish this year, but for some reason it seems to be all over the place. I had it at one of Mario's restaurants, Lupa on Thompson Street, and I became an instant convert. His recipe is a little bit different from yours - he toasts the pepper until it's fragrant and adds olive oil AND a little bit of butter. I use butter Delita Butter of Parma, which is delicious.

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

I ate this so many times when we lived in Rome, but sadly I've only made it once. You're reminding me of how much I love it- and your photos are so creative and beautiful.

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterciaochowlinda

This is one of my favorite pasta dishes from Rome, and I always get it once or twice when I'm there. Thanks for getting me in the mood early for my next culinary adventure to Rome & Puglia in September! (And if any of your readers are interested, I still have space in the group!!!)

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCooking with Michele

My favorite way to eat pasta! Does that look delish!

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJane M

You make the most simple food so elegant and showstopping. Just like mama used to make.

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJosie

Perfect recipe (meaning I agree). And I am thinking it's dinner tomorrow. Gorgeous photos.

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterClaudia

Isn`t it funny how the simplest of dishes are the most elegant and the presentation! Goregous.

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCharissa

I love simple but flavorful dishes and this sounds like it fits the bill! Your photos are great - I love the one of the dried pasta, very unique! Thank, Chris

This is a great one, so simple. I make something similar, instead of the black pepper I use oregano - also quite yummy !!

June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMCI

wow this looks unbelievably good. should try it sometime . I'm sure it would make a wonderful compliment to the main dish. Light and simple

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaya

This is definitely one of my favorite dishes ever! So simple, so few ingredients, and so completely delicious!

wonderful pictures too...

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSallyBR

This is the essence of Italian cuisine - simple dishes made with a handful of high-quality ingredients and lots of love. I so many times see this violated in North America... thanks for this beautiful post!

June 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaolo

Firstly, this photo looks awesome! Secondly, the combination of spaghetti, cheese and pepper is simply to die for! Thanks for sharing this lovely post.

June 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNeil Butterfield

I'm such a pasta lover, but rarely cook it because I get scared of long recipes that I fear I'd muck up - this looks just perfect. Thank you! :)

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJanne

Perfect recipe, very easy and very well explained.
It's true: with so few ingredients, only the quality makes the difference!
In Rome, Cacio e pepe are often cooked with short pasta, like rigatoni.

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMario Grazia

I love this. The first time I heard of this was on No Reservations. No I want it tonight!

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLucia

I made this last night as a side with chicken kabobs, and LOVED it! Will post about it soon, thank you :)

June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

Perfection. Now it's 11:04pm and I want pasta with cheese and pepper. And so simple. Love the pic of the dried spaghetti noodles.

June 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStrawberry CAKE

So simple and so tasty! What a great first course.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreg

One of my absolute favorite pasta dishes. I first had it in Rome and I've tried unsuccessfully to make it as good when home (especially because it always tastes better IN ROME), but this recipe looks easy and could definitely give it a run for the money! I just love how the Italians use a few quality ingredients to come up with a simple and delicious dish!

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobin @ My Melange

Yum! I'd like to aim that fully loaded fork right into my mouth!

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Simple and elegant. I love this pasta dish! I can't wait to try it soon. Discovered your blog and love it!

June 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

So simple. So perfect. :)

June 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRach

I LOVE using pasta as a side dish (typically use whole wheat) and can't wait to try this recipe out. So simple yet so satisfying. I'm ready for some now, and it's only 10:30 in the morning!

June 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLuv'n Spoonfuls

Made this tonight as a side for grilled steaks. It was simple and delicious! Thank you! Now if I can just learn to cut back on the pasta. I always cook too much.

July 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

How simple! I'm definitely going to make this soon.

July 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

Try using grated Pecorino tartufo instead - it's even more amazing.

September 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFelix

Made this recipe with the homemade pasta recipe, have the attachement and everything! Just got married and the husband was VERY happy! delicious, will never buy noodles again! Love this blog! Thanks!

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDebella01

One of many great dishes that we love to have as soon as we step foot in Rome every summer!!! So easy, and so good!!

September 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAntonette

Man this was good.
My process:
1 Read interview with Anthony Bourdain where he mentions cacio e pepe.
2 Insta-google it.
3 Your site is the first result
4 Check in fridge - no pecorino romano! >:(
5 Find block of grana padano - it will have to do! :o)
6 Cook>eat cacio e pepe.
7 Die without regrets
8 Put pecorino on shopping list.

November 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPhil

From The Italian Dish:

Phil: I love it! Aren't you glad you know how to make cacio e pepe now? Thanks for the funny list!

November 22, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

A divine dish, but the authentic way it is made in Rome is with butter, not olive oil.

January 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaty

I had this in Rome, in the mountins. It was great. Now I will try it at home, thanks for the reciepe!

January 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnders (from Sweden)

we've had the experience in a restaurant with cacio e pepe made right at our table in front of us - the hot pasta that had olive oil on it was actually swirled INSIDE a huge wheel of pecorino romano! The pepper is added as the server is swirling the paste right in the cheese... it makes a hole in the wheel of cheese that gets bigger and bigger as they use the cheese wheel..They must have brought out the pasta wheel about 10 times that night- everybody loved the concept and the pasta was the perfect al-dente :)

April 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAly

Just made this wonderful dish. I forgot Pecorino is sheep cheese and my daughter is allergic so we had a whole epipen/Benadryl episode. Aside from the health issue this dish is out of this world. Thank you.

August 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMotek

I just made this. It was perfect, and brought back some great memories from a wonderful trip. Thank you!

September 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTerri

I discovered this dish for the first time when I was in Rome in September, and had it 3 times. Also had it in Venice. I've been thinking about it ever since, and am so glad to have found the recipe on your site. Making it right now...happy, happy!

December 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

From what I know you are supposed to used cacio cheese from rome?

December 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermary

Grana Padano is not the cheese to use! Use Pecorino Romano or a mix of that and Parmigiano Reggiano. Yum, I love this. And it's on my menu for tonight. :)

February 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSusanna Auerbach

From The Italian Dish:

Susanna: The recipe does not call for Grana Padano - it calls for Pecorino.

February 26, 2013 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Well I had this dish in Rome two weeks ago and cannot wait to try it at home! Thank you.

May 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSonia Colon

I like this recipe version. I only learned about this dish recently, on a yahoo video. That version used butter but maybe I used too much and I felt it tasted a little heavy or looked greasy in the bowl. I like the taste and presentation more with olive oil (using a lot of California olive oil lately which is my find of 2013).

I watched another recipe version on a TV show and when I copied that, I ladled out too much of the pasta water and ended up with clumping cheese (no-no). I still enjoyed it but had a little leftover sauce in the bowl so I helped myself to seconds of pasta but this time used less water and overall lower temperature and the cheese formed more of a sauce than blobs (even though the blobs were yummy too, just not good looking).

Your recipe combined the best of the variations I've seen. Grazie.

September 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermosaic_world

Just came back from Napa, CA where we had this at a restaurant called Ciccia. They used bucatelli with pepper, grana padano and parmigiano reggiano, along with some cooking water.

It was wonderful!

September 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEd

Had this amazing dish in Julio passami l'olio in Rome last Christmas and was amazed!!! Cooking it tonight for dinner!!!! tasted the mature pecorino yesterday at the delictessen store - was simply delicious! Cant wait to have dinner tonight - hope my result is like y pictures!

January 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEleni

I am not even close to Italian. I am a mix of Scotts and German to be honnest,. The point I have never heard of this dish, BUT, for about 20 years I have been making this recipe. I came home about 2 am after a long day and night from work and opened the fridge to a small amount of well nothing that was good. I looked at the shelf and there was the last of my pasta(YAY), but not even a jar of tomato sauce :-( But there it is hidden behind a few bottles of ketchup and other stuff, my growing brother didn't notice my horde of cheeses. And that's how it started! That night I made a small portion that lasted one for full before I was boiling water for more! Over the years I make thing about once a week cause its not just easy but for the combinations of cheeses changing the whole luv of it. I kept it from my hubby until last year when he came home early. I have to explain, my husband thinks pepper is spicy, no matter the amount. SO that's why I was a little freaked. I really did not want to hear the complaining, but he supriced me by sneaking a mouth full behind my back, but the funny thing is he was stuck in his motion to run away. He actually said that's freaking awesome! Can you make more?? So of course I am blown away but said sure. Well then he grabbed the pan and ran off! LOL If you knew him and also knew that he was as skinny as all hell you would laugh too and let him run away with it! Now he asks me to make it a few times a week! He made me make it for his parents one time. His mom is right off the boat English and his Dad is also right off the boat but Austrian.....they don't have open minds, sad. And that was the night a huge mommies boy cut the cord cause they seemed to complain that it was too hot and "disgusting". Well my hubby stood up for the dish and for me saying it was the best pasta in the world, also saying I was genius for coming up with it! lol. Well I was watching Anthony boardains no reservations and was dumb struck when he said its a staple in Rome. I'm deflated a little lol but so happy others know what I mean when I describe the dish. Its my official comfort food!

February 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkatherine

I was looking for a quick pasta recipe that didn't have garlic (my husband hates when I smell up the house!) and this was perfect. I added some red pepper, fresh basil and a little sea salt on the assembled dish. Wonderful! Thank you.

May 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercindy

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