Cacio e pepe is a classic Roman-born pasta dish made with pecorino romano cheese and ground black pepper.
- 12 ounces pappardelle, fettuccine, bucatini, or spaghetti
- 2 cups (.5 lbs) very finely grated pecorino romano cheese (do not buy pre-ground)
- 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black peppercorns (coarsely cracked)
- Reserved pasta water ( about 1 1/2 cups)
- Salt for pasta water
- See note below on optional chopped bacon**
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. You will be cooking pasta until it’s a little firmer than al dente. Just to note, you’re going to want to save the pasta water for later steps so do not discard it at any point. Read the tips in my post for best results!
- Meanwhile, heat ground black pepper in a large nonstick pan or dutch oven on high heat for 1 minute. Once the pasta has been cooking for about 6 minutes, add 1/2 cup of pasta water to the pan. Simmer until the liquid is slightly reduced, about 3-4 minutes. The aroma should be intense!
- Once pasta is just under al dente, use tongs to transfer it directly to the pan with the pepper sauce. Toss to evenly coat in the pepper water. Reduce heat to medium and add an additional 1/2 cup of pasta water and continue to cook, tossing occasionally, until pasta is al dente.
- Turn off the heat. If you have an electric range, remove the pan from the burner. Sprinkle half the cheese over the pasta and toss until melted. Repeat with the remaining cheese and toss until creamy and fully incorporated. You can add extra pasta water as needed if the sauce feels too thick. Serve immediately topped with extra cracked pepper and grated cheese. The dish tends to lose it’s creamy texture if it sits out for too long.
This dish does not need any additional salt. It has plenty of salt from the cheese/pasta water.
Cheese should be very finely grated, almost powdered form. Do not buy pre-grated cheese because the preservatives will cause clumping.
You can add chopped bacon for additional flavor. Fully cook the bacon first and set aside on a paper towel to drain. Add bacon at the very end just before plating or sprinkle on top.