Authentic Cacio e Pepe in 20 Minutes! (VIDEO)

4.89 from 27 votes
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I love everything about Cacio e Pepe! It’s so simple and delicious, with only a handful of ingredients, and it comes together in 20 minutes. But it can be one of those dishes that is harder to replicate than you think – that’s why you need to include my secret FOOLPROOF step that helps me make the best Cacio e Pepe every time!

Watch the Cacio e Pepe Recipe Video Below!

Finished Cacio e Pepe in a bowl

One of the four traditional Roman pastas, Cacio e Pepe truly epitomizes Italian cooking for me – it’s simple but when done well, absolutely incredible. It’s perfect for a quick weeknight dinner (only needs 20 minutes!) but is also elevated enough for a special occasion.

If you’re looking for a pasta that is just as delicious but a little bit more rich, check out my Carbonara recipe. This is super special and many of you know that I make it for my wife’s birthday every year!

Ingredients for Cacio e Pepe

You will be surprised by how few ingredients you will need for this delicious dish! This is why I encourage you to use the highest quality ingredients you can get.

Spaghetti: Cacio e Pepe is traditionally made with some kind of long pasta (noodle); I like to use spaghetti but I’ve also seen it with bucatini, linguine, fettuccine, and even tagliatelle. You can use either dry or fresh pasta. If you use dry pasta, my recommendation is to use bronze-cut pasta, as the surface of the pasta allows for more sauce to cling to it.

Pecorino Romano Cheese: I love to always have a wedge of high quality pecorino in my refrigerator – my favorite place to buy this is actually Costco! You will be grating the pecorino for this recipe – I like to use a microplane. I rarely recommend using pre-grated cheese in my recipes, as they are usually coated with preservatives to keep the shreds from melting and clumping together. I definitely do not recommend using pre grated cheese for this recipe.

  • Note: while you can substitute parmesan reggiano for the pecorino 1:1, you will notice that the parmesan cheese is less salty – you may need to add more salt to taste. However, the parmesan cheese must still be freshly grated! None of that green can 🙂

Whole Black Peppercorns: For this recipe, I recommend taking one additional step and dry toasting your whole black peppercorns before grinding them. This will take the flavor to the next level! Dry toasting enriches the aroma and brings an extra layer of smokiness and spiciness that will truly enhance your dish! Because there are so few ingredients in this dish, each one’s flavor comes through very prominently. I like to coarsely grind them in a mortar and pestle because you can control for coarseness (you don’t want the black pepper to be too fine).

Pasta Water: After cooking your pasta, make sure to save 1 cup of your pasta water for your sauce.

My #1 Cacio e pepe Tip

My #1 Expert Tip for Making the Creamiest Cacio e Pepe EVERYTIME

I have made Cacio e Pepe hundreds of times and I discovered a couple years ago exactly what helped me make it perfectly every time. Are you ready?

Your pasta water needs to be cooled slightly to 150 degrees Fahrenheit or 70 degrees Celsius BEFORE mixing it into the sauce. The reason is that your pasta water, which was just boiling to cook your pasta, is oftentimes TOO HOT – which leads to the sauce becoming clumpy. I noticed that once I started waiting for my pasta water to cool to 150 degrees Fahrenheit (or 70 degrees Celsius), I stopped having any issues with my sauce becoming clumpy.

Cacio e Pepe: Recipe Instructions

1. Toasting Black Peppercorns

Toast the whole, black peppercorns in a pan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. One easy way to know they are toasted is when you can see the oils appear on the peppercorn. Remove the peppercorns and then coarsely grind in a mortar and pestle. Add back to the pan.

2. Grate Pecorino Cheese

For Cacio e Pepe, which simple means Cheese and Pasta in Italian, you should use finely grated fresh Pecorino Romano cheese. You want to use fresh to avoid any of the added preservatives in pre-grated cheese (these will prevent the cheese from melting nicely). The cheese will become the sauce, so it’s crucial it is finely grated – too thick and the sauce can become lumpy.

Finely grate the cheese with a microplane into a bowl. Add the grated cheese to the pan with the coarse ground black pepper – note: the heat should be turned OFF.

3. Reserve the pasta water!

Cook the pasta of choice (spaghetti, rigatoni, mezzi rigatoni, bucatini are all great choices) to al dente. About half way through the cooking process, reserve a cup of the starchy pasta water. Then, set the water on the counter to cool for at least 3-4 minutes. If you have a thermometer, you want to let the water cool to around 150F (70C).

The biggest mistake I’ve seen people make (I have done this many times), is add the pasta water to the cheese and pepper when the water is too hot (boiling). At these temperatures, the water will turn the cheese clumpy and oily, which is counterintuitive to the silky, emulsified sauce we are going for. The water temperature is a key step in this recipe!

4. Form the Cacio e Pepe sauce

Once the water has cooled, we will begin to add the pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, to the cheese and peppercorns. The goal is to mix until a smooth, emulsified sauce is achieved.

5. Mix and emulsify

Using a spatula (still off the heat), mix vigorously until you’ve created a smooth sauce that is free of clumps.

Note: If you are seeing clumps in the sauce, then unfortunately the water was too hot. I would suggest removing the clumpy cheese at this point, adding more cheese and cooled pasta water until the sauce is achieved.

mixing sauce for cacio e pepe

6. Add pasta and combine

Once the sauce is finished, the pasta should be done cooking and ready to combine with the sauce. Finally, drain the pasta, let it cool for a few seconds and add it to the sauce. I’ve also created a perfect sauce but then added pasta that was too hot and it ended up clumping my sauce! Let it cool for a few seconds to avoid this, then add the pasta and mix well with the sauce.

At this point, if the sauce is too thick, add a couple tablespoons of pasta water to thin out the sauce and continue mixing until you achieve the correct consistency. Plate your finished Cacio e Pepe into some warmed bowls and enjoy!

Cacio e pepe plated in a bowl.

I Love Pasta – What Else Should I Make?

Maybe you’re feeling something a little bit spicy – my Spicy Vodka Pasta would be perfect for you! (This one is a crowd pleaser – I make it for friends and family all the time!) Or are you looking for a recipe just a simple but delicious as my Cacio e Pepe? Check out my Fettucine Alfredo recipe, which only required 4 ingredients! If you are craving something lighter and brighter, you need to try my Pasta al Limone. And if it’s seafood you’re craving, my Linguine with Clams cannot be beat! A super easy weeknight dinner option is my Cherry Tomato Pasta!

If you tried this Cacio e Pepe or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the comments below!

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4.89 from 27 votes

Cacio e Pepe (Easy + Authentic)

Servings: 2
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Cacio e pepe in a pan.
Cacio e Pepe: this traditional Roman pasta (one of the classic four!) is so simple (literally the name means CHEESE & PEPPER) and comes together in under 20 minutes – making it the ideal pasta night dish!

Ingredients 

  • 6 oz spaghetti
  • 2 oz pecorino cheese, grated
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water, cooled to 150F (70C), used as needed to achieve an emulsified sauce in step 3
  • 1/2 tbsp whole black peppercorns

Instructions 

  • Toast whole peppercorns over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes to extract the oils. Transfer to a pepper grinder or mortar and pestle and grind to a medium coarse grind. Add back to your pan with the heat off.
  • Cook your spaghetti (or pasta of choice) in lightly salted water. 2 minutes before the pasta is done, reserve 1 cup of pasta water and set on the counter to let cool to about 150F or 70C – this is the key to avoiding lumpy cheese! Adding pasta water straight from the pot is much too hot.
  • While the heat is off, add 3/4 of your grated cheese to your peppercorns along with a 1/4 cup of the cooled pasta water at a time, stirring until you get a loose but emulsified sauce.
  • Add your drained pasta and mix vigorously. At this point your pasta should start to absorb the sauce, but add additional pasta water and mix if the sauce is too thick. Continue mixing until you achieve the correct consistency (refer to video). Serve immediately and enjoy!

Notes

My #1 Expert Tip for Making the Creamiest Cacio e Pepe EVERYTIME

I have made Cacio e Pepe hundreds of times and I discovered a couple years ago exactly what helped me make it perfectly every time. Are you ready?
Your pasta water needs to be cooled slightly to 150 degrees Fahrenheit or 70 degrees Celsius BEFORE mixing it into the sauce. The reason is that your pasta water, which was just boiling to cook your pasta, is oftentimes TOO HOT – which leads to the sauce becoming clumpy. I noticed that once I started waiting for my pasta water to cool to 150 degrees Fahrenheit (or 70 degrees Celsius), I stopped having any issues with my sauce becoming clumpy.

Nutrition

Calories: 432kcalCarbohydrates: 66gProtein: 20gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 346mgPotassium: 247mgFiber: 3gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 131IUCalcium: 331mgIron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Tried this recipe?Mention @cj.eats_ or tag #cjeatsrecipes!

About CJ

I’m a third generation Chinese-American home cook who has always loved cooking & eating! Welcome to my food blog, where you can find trusted, tested, easy & approachable recipes for the everyday home cook that taste delicious! I am so glad you're here!

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Recipe Rating




11 Comments

  1. Looks like an easy recipe. My last attempt ended in clumps, so I was excited to try the cooled water tip.

    Posting the correct video would help – the linked one is for shrimp, not cacio e pepe. Also, you stress the importance of cooling the water, but only mention cooling the pasta in passing. I didn’t think about the hot pasta and my smooth sauce turned to clumps… so sad.

    I love pepper but 1/2T was too much – perhaps toast that much but start with 1/2 t of ground pepper (after toasting and grinding), and then add more pepper to taste, vs. starting with all the pepper in the pan.

    Ingredients often die in the learning process, but I’m sad to have wasted 6 oz of bucatini that I brought back from Italy and a bunch of expensive pecorino. Oh well, I know to practice more next time!

    1. Hi Anne! I really appreciate the feedback. I do like a lot of black pepper so I can definitely agree with the less first approach. For the video, the Cacio e Pepe video plays first then after that playthrough it auto plays other related videos, so if you need to watch the original video again, just refresh the page! Thanks again for taking the time to leave a helpful comment!

  2. 5 stars
    Loved this! Have been trying to recreate it since trying it in Rome and this was almost like the real thing.

    @tickalishtash

  3. 5 stars
    I love this recipe, quick easy and taste delicious. This was actually the first video I saw on insta that made me start following CJ 🙂 @abster.rx

  4. 5 stars
    This recipe is so easy to follow! I’ve tried to make Cacio e Pepe before but the sauce gets a bit clumpy. This was perfect and delicious. We made it for a dinner party and everyone loved it! @emilyz40

  5. 2 stars
    This recipe is so good. We’ve made it several times and it always turns out!

  6. 5 stars
    thank you for this wonderful recipe. made this twice and it’s the best pasta I’ve had and just have to be patient when it comes to cooking this pasta. so worth it thank you.🙏🏽