How to Make the Perfect Cacio e Pepe

An image of Cacio e Pepe, Roman pasta spaghetti with black pepper and cheese._GettyImages-1304870492

Whether it’s a late-night snack, simple supper or cheeky breakfast, cacio e pepe is always on time. The classic Roman pasta dish has few ingredients and comes together in less than 15 minutes.  

‚ÄúBut we all know that the simplest recipes can often be the most confounding,‚ÄĚ writes¬†J.¬†Kenji¬†L√≥pez-Alt in¬†Serious Eats, where he makes a strong case for a detailed analysis of the dish.¬†

There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles here, so every move must be deliberate. Toast the pepper in butter to develop its flavor and salt the pasta water well. The sauce is ultimately an emulsion of cheese with butter and pepper, so we highly recommend grating the Parmesan with a Microplane zester instead of buying it shredded. And, instead of draining the pasta, use tongs to move it directly into the pan with the cheese, butter and toasted pepper. These seemingly fussy steps help everything come together in the pan to make the sauce creamy, not clumpy.  

This dish is best served immediately, topped with a few twists of black pepper and a flurry of extra cheese. 

How to Make a Simple, Easy Pasta Dough
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to serve
1 cup Parmesan Reggiano, grated on a microplane zester, plus more to serve
6 ounces spaghetti or bucatini
Kosher salt, to taste


Prep time: 15 minutes 

Bring¬†large¬†pot of well-salted water to¬†boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook until just shy of al dente, approximately 6‚Äď8 minutes for most dried pasta brands.¬†¬†

Meanwhile, melt two tablespoons butter in sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add pepper, stir, and immediately remove from heat. Swirl until pepper is toasted and fragrant. When pasta is ready, use tongs to transfer directly to sauté pan with butter and pepper. Reserve remaining water.  

Add grated cheese and remaining tablespoon of butter to pan over low heat. Stir vigorously with fork so the sauce comes together, adding splash of pasta water if needed. To serve, top with fresh pepper and cheese.  Serves 2.

Published on November 14, 2021