Cacio e Pepe (Pasta with Cheese and Pepper)
May 31, 2011
[Elaine] in pasta, side dish

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



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.


Article originally appeared on The Italian Dish (
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