Pasta Cacio e Pepe from Rome & Lazio.

Cacio e pepe is a traditional pasta recipe from the Eternal city, Rome and the Lazio region in general. Like many popular pasta dishes, its roots can be found in the simple food of the peasant population. In this case, mainly the shepherds of the Agro Romano – a term first used in the 15th century to describe the vast rural area of hills and plains that surrounded Rome. 

pasta cacio e pepe

Pasta Cacio e Pepe.

Italian food historians say when the shepherds stayed out with their flocks or moved them to different grazing areas, they would carry a number of dried foods to sustain themselves. Foods such as dried tomatoes, dried pork cheek, cacio cheese (pecorino Romano), pepper corns and dried homemade pasta. From these ingredients, they produced simple filling meals like cacio e pepe and all’amatriciana.

pasta cacio e pepe

Apparently, the pepper corns were included because they helped the shepherds to stay warm during the chilly nights outdoors! Pecorino was the cheese of choice. As a sheep’s milk cheese, it was mostly homemade and once dried, pecorino has a long life. Pasta, of course, added bulk to the meal and was easy and cheap to prepare.

Pecorino Romano and black pepper corns

Pasta Cacio e Pepe; New York’s trendiest dish 2016!

It’s interesting that many of the ‘dishes’ we see today on smart Italian restaurant menus in Rome, as well as cities like London and New York, started out as simple fare for the poorer, rural Italian population. I recently read that cacio e pepe was declared New York’s trendiest dish 2016 by Time Out Magazine!!

ingredients for pasta cacio e pepe

Despite being very trendy, cacio e pepe is far from pretentious. It is easy to make once you have got the hang of it. Plus, it needs only 2 ingredients, apart from the pasta, Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper corns!

The only trick is to find the perfect balance between the cheese and the pasta. It’s important that the dish doesn’t turn out too dry or the sauce too lumpy or liquid. Once you have got that right, this is a dish you can produce in less than 30 minutes, including the time it takes to boil the water for the pasta.

ground pepper corns in mortar and grated Pecorino Romano in white bowl

Different ways to make a simple sauce!

Believe it or not, there are different ‘ways’of making this simple dish. In my research, I’ve come across a number of articles, in both Italian and English, on the merits of the different techniques!

ground black pepper corns in skillet

Some people just boil the pasta al dente, and then vigourously mix it with grated pecorino, freshly ground pepper corns and some of the pasta cooking water. This is reserved before draining the pasta and gives the dish a creamy consistency. This is what I did, although I cooked the pepper in a dry frying pan to bring out the flavour first.

drained pasta in skillet with pepper corns and pasta water

Pasta au poivre!

Others advocate mixing the cheese together with the ground pepper and some of the pasta cooking water in a bowl before adding the pasta to it. Another variation involves adding a little butter or oil to the pasta before mixing in the cheese, cooking water and pepper. In general, cacio e pepe may need a bit of practice to get right. But, once you do, you are bound to fall in love with its peppery taste. To me it’s pasta au poivre!

drained lombrichelli pasta, pepper corns and grated pecorino in skillet

What kind of pasta should you use?

There are also different views on which pasta works best. In Rome and Lazio, they often make cacio e pepe with either long pasta such as bucatini , spaghetti alla chitarra (called tonnarelli in Rome), lombrichelli or even just normal spaghetti (although some Roman chefs think normal spaghetti is a no no!) Others prefer to use short tubes like penne or rigatoni or something in between such as pici, short hand rolled thick spaghetti.

mixing cacio e pepe in skillet

In the past, I have used bucatini to make cacio e pepe. For this post, I used fresh lombrichelli which some friends sent me from  Lazio. Obviously it’s great to be able to make cacio e pepe with traditional pasta. However, even if you have no other choice but normal spaghetti, don’t despair. It will definitely taste great anyway!

pasta cacio e pepe

If you do try this cacio e pepe recipe from Rome, I’d love to hear what you think. Please write a comment here on the blog or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.

Your feedback means a lot to me!

Buon appetito!

Other Traditional Roman Pasta Recipes

  1. Spaghetti alla carbonara
  2. Pasta alla Papalina
  3. Spaghetti alla Checca
  4. Pasta alla Gricia

Save this recipe for later?

If you want to save this recipe for later, you can print it, bookmark this page or save it to Pinterest.

Pin for later.

pasta cacio e pepe

 

This recipe was first published in 2017 but has been updated with new photos and text.

5 from 37 votes
pasta cacio e pepe
Pasta Cacio e Pepe
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
25 mins
 

This deliciously peppery vegetarian pasta recipe comes from Rome and includes only 2 ingredients! Easy to make and perfect for weeknights!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Central Italy, Italian, Rome & Lazio
Keyword: authentic Italian pasta recipe, cacio e pepe, pecorino, Roman cuisine, vegetarian
Servings: 4
Calories: 569 kcal
Author: Jacqueline Debono
Ingredients
  • 400 g lombrichelli (14oz) or tonnarelli, spaghetti alla chitarra, bucatini or normal spaghetti
  • 200 g Pecorino Romano cheese (7oz) freshly grated
  • Freshly ground black pepper corns about 4 teaspoons Don’t grind too fine.
  • Salt for boiling the pasta
Instructions
  1. Dry fry the roughly ground pepper corns in a small frying pan until they start to release their aroma.
  2. Put a pot of water onto boil for the pasta. Use a bit less water than you would normally. Add salt once it starts to boil and bring to the boil again.

  3. Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet. Take a ladleful of the pasta cooking water and add to the pepper corns. Then keep aside another cupful of the cooking water, drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the peppercorns. I drain the pasta 'wet' meaning it should still have some water with it. Mix the pasta with the pepper.

  4. Add the grated pecorino continue mixing very well until the cheese starts to become creamy.

  5. If too dry add a little more of the cooking water. If too liquid add more cheese.

  6. Serve on heated plates, topped with more grated pecorino and another generous sprinkling of pepper.
Recipe Notes

An alternative way to make the sauce is to put the cheese and most of the pepper in a large, heavy bowl or pan and beat in some of the pasta water very gradually to make first a paste, and then a sauce the consistency of bechamel.
Add the pasta and toss well while adding more water if necessary, until you have a sauce that coats each strand of pasta. Don’t worry if it takes a while to come together – keep mixing and it should happen.
It is also recommended to use less water than usual when cooking the pasta (about half), because this will result in cooking water that is rich in starch and will make it easier to obtain a creamy result.

 

Want to know more about my life in Italy? Go to the homepage and subscribe to my newsletter. New subscribers get a free recipe e-book too! https://www.the-pasta-project.com

You May Also Like

39 Comments

  • Avatar
    Lathiya
    July 20, 2020 10:50 pm

    What, such minimal ingredients to make this delicious pasta? I can’t wait to try this delicious recipe.

  • Avatar
    Ramona
    July 20, 2020 7:30 pm

    This cacio e pepe looks super delicious and I never thought of toasting the pepper first so that’s something new to try out! I can’t wait to try this out this week. Thank you for sharing!

  • Avatar
    Kari Alana
    July 20, 2020 7:24 pm

    I adore the simplicity of this dish and pecorino Romano is my favourite Italian hard cheese. I am going to have fun making this!

  • Avatar
    April
    July 20, 2020 5:24 pm

    I can go for this right now! I love cacio e pepe! 2 ingredients only too! Yes! You always have great tasting pasta recipes!

  • Avatar
    Georgina @ Culinary Travels
    July 20, 2020 3:22 pm

    Cacio e Pepe is one of my favourite pasta dishes. The first time I ate it was in Rome, in a small trattoria just off the Piazza Navona. So good.

  • Avatar
    Jen | Jen’s Food Lab
    July 20, 2020 3:24 am

    What a classic dish! I’ve always wanted to go to Italy, so this is a perfect way to at least try to get a sense of it virtually all the way in the US. Thanks for sharing!

  • Avatar
    Sapna
    July 19, 2020 11:51 pm

    I love making pastas and my fav is spaghetti aglio e olio. This one sounds quite intriguing.

  • Avatar
    Julie @ Running in a Skirt
    July 19, 2020 8:19 pm

    What an amazing version of pasta cacio e pepe! This has so much flavor and my family loved it for dinner. So good!

  • Avatar
    Lori | The Kitchen Whisperer
    July 19, 2020 6:48 pm

    Oh my heavens you’re speaking my language! I’m infatuated with Cacio e Pepe and yours looks incredible!!! I know what’s for dinner tonight! Can’t wait to try your recipe!

  • Avatar
    Gail Montero
    July 19, 2020 3:45 am

    Every time I visit your website I get hungry as you have so many yummy dishes! What a tasty and easy pasta dish to make for busy nights!

  • Avatar
    Sondra Barker
    July 18, 2020 6:58 am

    I’ve had this once or twice before and I LOVED it I’m so excited that I found this recipe I can’t wait to try it!

  • Avatar
    Eva
    July 17, 2020 10:13 pm

    My husband’s grandma (from Rome) is an advocate of the bowl method: she swears by mixing the pasta cooking water with pecorino to make a cream. I have also tried your method (love warming up the pepper!) and adding pasta just before it’s al dente to the pan, together with some cooking water and finish it in the pan (facendola “risottare”). I am still unsure as to which is the method I prefer, but I think it’s so interesting that a simple 2-ingredient recipe could have such variation in the preparation techniques!

  • Avatar
    Marta
    July 17, 2020 7:59 pm

    I remember when cacio e pepe was all the rage a few years ago. I see why. It’s so simple and comforting.

  • Avatar
    Amy Liu Dong
    July 17, 2020 5:28 pm

    Wow! This is definitely a masterpiece pasta recipe. I may say that we can never go wrong with pasta. It’s everybody’s comfort food of all time. This pasta recipe looks really delicious and it’s very enticing. Loved it!

  • Avatar
    Sarah James
    July 17, 2020 4:01 pm

    How delicious – I love black pepper and thanks for the tip of dry frying the peppercorns to release more flavour. It’s a perfect midweek meal.

  • Avatar
    Beth
    July 17, 2020 6:47 am

    What a simple, yet great idea to saute the peppercorns to release flavor. I was also fascinated to see how the pasta cooking water was important in the recipe. And the addition of the pecorino – yum.

  • Avatar
    Lesli Schwartz
    July 16, 2020 10:33 pm

    I really love how simple this pasta dish is! Sometimes those are the absolute best recipes! YUM!

  • Avatar
    Anna
    July 16, 2020 2:24 pm

    Such a delicious classic Jacqui! Your pasta dishes always make me so hungry, and cacio e pepe is one of my all-time favourites! Perfect to make as a quick weekday dinner, but equally good to serve at a dinner party!

  • Avatar
    Kushigalu
    July 16, 2020 10:08 am

    Love this traditional pasta recipe. Making it for dinner tonight. Thanks for sharing

  • Avatar
    Colleen
    July 16, 2020 4:20 am

    I love the simplicity of this dish, but the flavor is divine! Toasting the peppercorns first is the best idea. Thanks for this amazing recipe!

  • Avatar
    Emily
    July 15, 2020 11:40 pm

    This is one of my all time favorite pasta recipes! You can never go wrong with pasta cacio e pepe!

  • Avatar
    Relle
    July 15, 2020 5:53 pm

    Who would have thought there were so many different ways to make pasta. Thanks for sharing. Love it.

  • Avatar
    Candice
    July 15, 2020 5:46 pm

    I always love your recipes and this one is no different. Such a great, low-ingredient recipe we will definitely be making again. Thank you!

  • Avatar
    Laura
    July 15, 2020 3:30 pm

    We love Cacio e Pepe at home, so easy and delicious! Never tried frying the pepper before but will definitely try next time!

  • Avatar
    Shelley
    July 14, 2020 10:02 pm

    So interesting that this age-old dish is now totally TRENDY! And also that the shepherds used to include the peppercorns to help stay warm on chilly nights! Besides great recipes, you always have such fantastic background info and “fun facts” – i learn so much from you! Another winner!

  • Avatar
    Maria
    July 14, 2020 9:18 pm

    This looks delicious! I love Pasta Cacio e Pepe. Never thought to cook the pepper first. Can’t wait to try this version.

  • Avatar
    Taleen | Just As Tasty
    July 14, 2020 8:18 pm

    I LOVE cacio e pepe and can’t wait to make this for dinner sometime soon! Delicious!

  • Avatar
    Sean
    July 14, 2020 6:53 pm

    What a delightful look at a simple, and deservedly classic pasta dish! I love that you dove into the variations while still focusing squarely on the roots of the recipe. I feel like this recipe doesn’t get enough credit (despite being rather on-trend in 2016, as you say!) – not only does it feature pecorino Romano so nicely, but it helps us to remember that black pepper is a truly special ingredient that deserves to star in more recipes!

  • Avatar
    Angela
    July 14, 2020 6:43 pm

    The simplicity of this pasta is what makes it so worth cooking often. Just a few ingredients and wonderful spaghetti dinner is ready.

  • Avatar
    Amanda
    July 14, 2020 5:48 pm

    Cacio e pepe is one of my favorites, and this version is delicious! I love that you toast the pepper first. It adds so much flavor. Can’t wait to make it again!

  • Avatar
    Stine Mari
    July 14, 2020 3:45 pm

    I love those specks of pepper in Pasta Cacio e Pepe. Thanks for the reminder that I need to make this again – a simple and flavorful dish!

  • Avatar
    Nart at Cooking with Nart
    July 14, 2020 3:16 pm

    Looks good and so easy to make! Gotta give this one a try 🙂

  • Avatar
    Emily Liao
    July 10, 2020 8:59 pm

    This pasta was so delicious! And the Romano cheese was the cherry on top. Will definitely be making again for dinner.

  • Avatar
    Jennifer
    July 10, 2020 8:43 pm

    I could eat delicious pasta dishes everyday, and this cacio e pepe is one of my favorites. I love how you made the recipe so easy to make. It was delicious.

  • Avatar
    Andrea Metlika
    July 10, 2020 8:28 pm

    What a simple and delicious pasta dish. Cant wait to try this.

  • Avatar
    Beth
    July 10, 2020 8:25 pm

    This is so delicious! My family loved this recipe! Can’t wait to make this again!

  • Avatar
    Dannii
    July 10, 2020 8:18 pm

    You can’t beat a simple pasta dish and this looks delicious.

  • Avatar
    Margaret Mifsud
    July 1, 2017 9:53 am

    Very interesting I’m. A fan of pasta ….. so tnx for ides

    • admin
      admin
      July 1, 2017 5:03 pm

      Hi Margaret, I’m very happy you like this recipe! It is always nice to meet other pasta fans! I try to post 2-3 new recipes every week, so please come back and visit again soon. There are many more delicious recipes to come. Happy weekend from Italy! Jacqui

Leave a Reply

Recipe Rating