Cacio e pepe is an Italian pasta that originated in central Italy. Though it may sound fancy, cacio e pepe is only two ingredients: cheese and pepper. Some people even call it adult mac and cheese. Cacio e pepe is traditionally made using a long pasta such as spaghetti or bucatini. All you need for the sauce is Pecorino Romano cheese and freshly ground black pepper. It is really important to grind your own pepper in this recipe, and in every other recipe because it can make all the difference. Especially in this recipe since pepper is one of the main flavors. I know grinding pepper can be a tedious task, but it will completely change the taste of this dish. Once you start grinding your own pepper, you won’t go back to pre-ground. This recipe calls for pasta water. Yes, I mean the water that you boiled your pasta in. This water is full of starches from the pasta and adds a certain type of creaminess that cannot be achieved from heavy cream or butter. The technique I use in this recipe is one that I learned from watching The Pasta Queen on TikTok.
TOTAL TIME: 20 minutes
1 lb pasta
3 cups shredded Pecorino Romano
2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
Salt (to taste)
Shred all of the Pecorino Romano and put it in a saucepan.
Toast peppercorns for a couple minutes, crush with a ladle and add in with the Pecorino cheese.
Boil pasta according to box instructions. Make sure you remove it a minute or 2 before it reaches al dente because the pasta will continue to cook in the sauce. Make sure to salt your pasta water!
After the pasta has been boiling for a couple minutes, slowly start adding some of the pasta water with a ladle into the pan with your shredded cheese and peppercorns and mix. The cheese mixture should become a sauce consistency.
When the pasta is almost al dente, reserve some more pasta water and add the pasta into the sauce.
Mix vigorously with tongs until combined. You will have to mix for about 5 minutes. At first it won't look like it is coming together, but the more you mix, the better. Add more cheese or pasta water until the sauce reaches your desired consistency.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add a little more pasta water than you think you need because the pasta will get dry otherwise. If you are saving some leftovers for the next day, make sure you save some pasta water. When heating up leftovers, heat it up in a saucepan on low heat and add in pasta water until it is creamy again.