Cacio E Pepe

Sometimes, culinary magic lies in the art of simplicity. Enter Cacio e Pepe, a classic Roman pasta dish that embodies this perfectly. With just three key ingredients – pasta, Pecorino Romano cheese, and black pepper – it delivers a symphony of flavor that transcends its humble origins. But don’t be fooled by its simplicity; crafting the perfect Cacio e Pepe requires understanding the delicate dance between these elements.

Cacio e Pepe’s Rich History

Cacio e Pepe (pronounced “kah-cho ay pay-pay”) translates to “cheese and pepper,” a straightforward name that reflects its unpretentious nature. Its origins remain unclear, with some attributing it to Roman shepherds who carried only these readily available ingredients. Others argue it was a dish for farmers during harvest season. Regardless of its beginnings, Cacio e Pepe has become a cornerstone of Roman cuisine, beloved for its rich, creamy texture and bold, peppery flavor.

The Art of Three: Ingredients and Ratios

As mentioned before, Cacio e Pepe relies on just three key players:

Pasta: Traditionally, tonnarelli (think thick spaghetti) or bucatini (hollow spaghetti) are used. You can also use spaghetti or rigatoni, but remember, the shape influences how the sauce coats the pasta.

Pecorino Romano cheese: This is not just any cheese! This aged, sheep’s milk cheese boasts a salty, nutty flavor and a sharp bite that perfectly complements the pepper. Grating your own cheese ensures freshness and releases its full potential.

Black pepper: Freshly ground black pepper is vital. Avoid pre-ground varieties, which lack the aromatic intensity and depth of flavor needed.

And the golden ratio? While some purists stick to equal parts cheese and pepper, the beauty lies in finding your own balance. Generally, start with 1 tablespoon each per serving of pasta, then adjust to your taste preference.

Mastering the Cacio e Pepe Ritual

Now, let’s get cooking! Remember, the key to success lies in technique and attention to detail:

  1. Cook the pasta al dente: This means slightly undercooked, as it will continue cooking in the hot cheese sauce. Don’t forget to reserve some pasta water – it’s the secret ingredient to creating a silky smooth sauce!
  2. Toast the pepper: While the pasta cooks, toast the black pepper in a dry pan over low heat. This releases its oils and intensifies the pepper’s aroma.
  3. Prepare the cheese: Finely grate your Pecorino Romano cheese. The finer the grate, the smoother the sauce will be.
  4. Emulsify the sauce: Here’s the magic! In a warmed pan, combine half the cheese, toasted pepper, and a ladleful of pasta water. Whisk vigorously until a creamy emulsion forms.
  5. Toss and coat: Add the drained pasta to the pan and toss vigorously, incorporating the cheese sauce and remaining pasta water until everything is beautifully coated.
  6. Serve immediately: Top with the remaining cheese, a sprinkle of fresh pepper, and a drizzle of pasta water if needed. Enjoy the warm, creamy goodness while it’s fresh!

Watch my Cacio E Pepe Video!

Cacio e Pepe & Anthony Bourdain

In an episode of “No Reservations,” Anthony Bourdain explains that Cacio e Pepe “may be the greatest thing in the history of the world.” His favorite place to eat the famous Roman dish was at Ristorante Roma Sparita on the Piazza di Santa Cecila. Roma Sparita’s version of the recipe isn’t quite traditional, however. It uses tagliolini pasta, butter, and is served in a crispy parmesan bowl.


This Roman recipe is so popular that it has inspired spin-off recipes such as Cacio e Pepe Ravioli and Cacio e Pepe Pizza, which is simply a pizza topped with Pecorino Romano cheese and fresh cracked pepper. Other variations on the classic dish include Cacio e Pepe Arancini (rice balls).

Mastering Cacio e Pepe is a journey, not just a recipe. With practice and a touch of passion, you can unlock the magic of this deceptively simple dish and impress your friends and family with your culinary prowess. Remember, the beauty of Cacio e Pepe lies in its versatility. So, experiment, explore, and most importantly, savor every creamy, peppery bite!

If you try this recipe, be sure to let me know how it comes out in the comments below! For more pasta recipes, you may also enjoy my homemade spaghetti sauce or Fettuccine Carbonara.

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An authentic Cacio E Pepe Recipe from Rome

Authentic Cacio E Pepe

Recipe by Jason Hill –
Today we’re making an authentic Cacio e Pepe recipe inspired by our recent trip to Rome! This delicious Italian pasta is found throughout the city, and although Cacio e Pepe only has three ingredients, each restaurant seems to make it slightly differently. This recipe is the most traditional method.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4


  • 8 oz. Tonnarelli pasta
  • 4-6 ounces Pecorino-Romano cheese very finely grated
  • 1/4 cup hot pasta water reserved
  • 1 tablespoon freshly cracked pepper
  • Salt for boiling water


  • Bring pot of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and pasta to the boiling water.
  • Put shaved Pecorino in a large bowl or pot near the boiling pasta.
  • When pasta is cooked, reserve about 1 cup of the hot pasta water. Drain the rest of the pasta.
  • Add 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the cheese. Next, add the fresh pasta and stir continuously, incorporating the cheese well. The starch in the pasta water, combined with the cheese, should create a creamy texture.
  • Finally, stir in the fresh cracked pepper and serve immediately.
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Keyword Italy, pasta
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AboutJason Hill

Hi, I’m Jason Hill, host of YouTube’s “Chef Tips” series. I graduated from culinary school in 1998, and gained my experience working the lines in Southern California. I launched my cooking videos in 2007. I love sharing quick and easy recipes that get people back in the kitchen.

5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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