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.
For example, some Italian chefs like to toast the peppercorns in olive oil before grinding them with a mortar and pestle. Others add an additional sprinkling of grated Pecorino cheese on top of the pasta for a garnish.
According to historical records, Cacio e Pepe is one of Italy’s oldest dishes, invented by Roman shepherds.
Watch my Cacio E Pepe Video!
Cacio e Pepe is pronounced “kah-cheeoh eh peh-peh.” The translation means “cheese and pepper.” Traditionally, the preferred Cacio e Pepe pasta is tonnarelli, though you can also use a thick spaghetti or bucatini. Tonnarelli is very similar to spaghetti, but has a more squarish shape to it.
Cacio e Pepe Sauce
The ingredients needed to make the Cacio e Pepe sauce include finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese and some of the hot pasta water.
Pecorino Romano is a hard, salty Italian cheese made with sheep’s milk. It has a more pungent, grassy and earthy flavor than Parmesan, and it’s a must when making this recipe. An authentic cacio e pepe recipe will never include butter, olive oil, or any other type of cheese.
Although you can buy a jarred Cacio e Pepe sauce in Italian markets and at places like Trader Joes, why would you? With just three ingredients, this is the ultimate weeknight dinner and it comes together in a snap. The key to this recipe is the starchy pasta water, which combines with the finely grated cheese to create a rich and creamy sauce.
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).
Authentic Cacio E PepeRecipe by Jason Hill – CookingSessions.com
- 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.