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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 (58)

Love this dish and always have it when I'm in Rome .. however, when I try to do it at home the cheese always clumps together .. what am ai doing wrong?

July 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSharon

This is my most favorite dish of all time! I have to admit, I add minced garlic while toasting the pepper. I love garlic too much not too! I use the Pecorino Romano to make the sauce, but I garnish with Parmigiana Reggiano. Parmigiana Reggiano is my son's and my go to cheese, a must have for any reason we can come up with! We even slice it thin for homemade pizzas and just as a snack by itself. My son is only 12, but he has refined taste buds. I can see him growing up to be a gourmet cook for his wife, and mama of course. ;) thank you for sharing!

March 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Y

Just saw this recipe on a TV show about Italy, no oil or butter or cream was used, nothing to thin the taste, they relied on the pasta water to melt the finely shredded hard cheese. I used to make pasta with a couple drops of oil in the boiling water until reading the oil coats the pasta, which doesn't allow anything else to soak in and flavor it. Ever since that I stopped adding oil to the water. Leftover pasta dishes taste much better!

April 8, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSusieHmMkr

Delish. Love pepper but sautéing the cracked pepper in olive first took it to a whole other level. Simple but amazing. Thanks

June 26, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSharon

I ADORE this pasta!! Will be in Rome in June/July 2018. Could anyone recommend their favourite restaurant for cacio e pepe?

November 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

From the Italian Dish:

Janice: There are so many great places to have cacio e pepe in Rome, but here is a good suggestion:

November 16, 2017 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

mine turned out kind of creamy... why did that happen?

June 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermims g.

We love cacio e pepe so gave this a try. Very nice recipe! Thanks for sharing.

February 27, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGary

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