Cacio e pepe

Simple pasta with cheese and pepper makes cacio e pepe a comforting, classic Italian recipe that is perfect for an easy, quick, vegetarian weeknight dinner.

Simple pasta with cheese and pepper.

What is Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e pepe literally means “Cheese and pepper” and as is the case with simple food, using the very best ingredients you can find is crucial to ensure your dish is packed with flavor. This is not the time for pre-grated cheese. Use the good stuff. Pecorino Romano cheese (an aged sheep’s cheese) is the traditional cheese used but if you have trouble finding it, use Parmigiano-Reggiano. I prefer to use a combination of freshly cracked white pepper and black pepper. I find the white pepper more delicate and floral but use whatever you have in the house.

Ingredients needed

  • Olive oil. 
  • Butter. 
  • Pepper. Use freshly ground white or black pepper. You would traditionally grind the whole black peppercorns in a pestle and mortar but a good pepper mill works just as well.
  • Hard cheese. I have made this with Parmesan, Pecorino and Grana Padano and it is simply delicious using any three, or a mixture, of those. Use a vegetarian alternative if needed.
  • Pasta. Use a long pasta shape like spaghetti, linguini or fettucini for this recipe. I also love making Bucatini Cacio e Pepe as the sauce is perfect with hollow bucatini. It’s crucial that you save the pasta cooking water as that is an integral part of the sauce.
  • Salt.
Cacio e pepe is the easiest pasta dish using only a handful of ingredients.

How to make Cacio e Pepe

  1. Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta of your choice and cook until al dente. Reserve 2 cups of pasta water. You will likely not use both cups but rather save more than less. Drain the pasta.
  2. Make the “sauce”: Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large skillet or pan (big enough to hold all the pasta) over medium-high heat. Add the pepper and toast for a minute. Stir in the cooked pasta with a good splash of the hot pasta water and the finely grated cheese. I prefer using a microplane to grate in the cheese as this will prevent clumps of cheese from forming. Quickly toss and turn the pasta with a pair of tongs in the buttery-cheesy liquid until the starch in the cooking water, the butter and the cheese form a light, creamy sauce which will coat the pasta beautifully. Adding more water will loosen the sauce and will create more creaminess. Just add the water slowly to create that creaminess and toss constantly over low heat.
  3. Serve: Tip the pasta into bowls and top with more cheese before tucking in. Simple perfection.

Can I make this ahead?

Although best served immediately, leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat with a splash of water in a pan set over medium-heat and top with more cheese before serving.

Cacio e Pepe

Classic pasta dishes

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e pepe

Simple pasta with cheese and pepper makes cacio e pepe a comforting, classic Italian recipe that is perfect for an easy, quick, vegetarian weeknight dinner.
5 from 8 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Cacio e pepe, Cacio e pepe pasta, Cacio e pepe recipe
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Calories: 539kcal
Author: Alida Ryder
Servings: 4


  • 500 g (1lb) spaghetti/Linguini
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 teaspoons cracked pepper to taste
  • 1Ā½ cups finely grated Parmesan cheese plus extra for serving.


  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente.
  • In the meantime, melt together the butter and olive oil over low heat and add the pepper. Allow the pepper to toast in the butter/oil until fragrant.
  • When the pasta is cooked, reserve 2 cups of water and drain. Toss the pasta into the pan with the butter and pepper and add the cheese and 1/2 cup of water. Toss and turn the pasta in the sauce until creamy, adding 1/2 cup of cooking water at a time to loosen the sauce and add more creaminess.
  • Transfer to bowls then top with more cheese and serve.


Calories: 539kcal | Carbohydrates: 95g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 26mg | Sodium: 608mg | Potassium: 313mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 293IU | Calcium: 470mg | Iron: 2mg

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  1. Oh my goodness made this last night as my toddlers we’re overtired and very cranky. Whipped this up in no time at all, simple and delicious (pardon the pun haha). Will be a regular in this household ?

  2. This looks so lovely!!! Gorgeous pictures! And I love the story..I too frequently want to just grab a bag of skinny pop and plop down on the couch and not even look at my kitchen šŸ™‚ This looks perfect! Simple and delicious šŸ™‚