Traditionally, Cacio e Pepe is made with just three ingredients: aged pecorino Romano cheese, freshly ground black pepper, and pasta, usually spaghetti; plus the starchy water from cooking the noodles. The combination of a little oil or butter, the starchy water, and finely, freshly grated Pecorino cheese creates a creamy sauce that coats the pasta strands.
My husband is a partner in a local restaurant here in Naples, Florida, and they make a really delicious version of Cacio e Pepe at Bar Tulia Mercato. This has become my latest favorite pasta dish and I order often at the restaurant, or make it myself at home. You don’t have to go to Rome to enjoy an amazing bowl of Cacio e Pepe!
For me, this simple Roman dish is pure comfort food as well as being very inexpensive and easy to make. Although it originated in Rome, it is a common dish seen on restaurant menus across Umbria as well. When I want a light, tasty pasta dish, this is often my first choice. In Umbria, it is often made with Umbria’s traditional pasta strangozzi.
Although Cacio de Roma cheese is often used in combination with Pecorino Romano, feel free to use just grated Pecorino cheese. Freshly cracked black pepper really makes this pasta so don’t use regular pepper. Of course since I love pepper I always use extra!
- 1 Pound Spaghetti
- 4 Tablespoons Extra-virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 2 Teaspoons Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
- 1 Cup Finely Grated Aged Pecorino Romano Cheese (Reserve 1/4 For Serving)
- 1/2 Cup Finely Grated Cacio de Roma (Or 1 1/2 Cups Total Grated Pecorino)
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then add the pasta, and cook until al dente.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat until hot.
- Add the pepper and cook until fragrant, 1–2 minutes.
- Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
- Add 3⁄4 cup pasta water into skillet with the oil, and then bring to a boil.
- Add the butter and stir to melt evenly.
- Sprinkle the cheese over the pasta, stirring continuousy so it doesn't clump.
- Contiue to toss the pasta with the cheese and oil mixture to combine until sauce is creamy and clings to the pasta without clumping, adding some additional pasta water if necessary.
- Transfer to 4 plates and sprinkle with remaining Pecorino and more black pepper.