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Cacio e pepe with olives and basil

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5 from 10 reviews


A simple cacio e pepe style sauce with the addition of olives, fresh basil and lemon zest. The sauce comes together so quickly and will pair with any pasta, fresh or dried.


  • Pasta of your choice I do 160g fresh per person (I am a big eater though!)
  • 80g butter (you can use unsalted or salted but it is already quite salty with the olives)
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (use more if you want!)
  • 80g parmesan or a split of parmesan and pecorino, finely grated
  • 2/3 cup pitted olives, roughly chopped (I use Kalamata olives)
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Extra parmesan to serve


  1. Get a pot of well salted water boiling and depending on whether you are using fresh or dried will dictate when you add the pasta to the water. The sauce only takes a few minutes to bring together so when using fresh pasta I add the pasta to the water when the butter is just starting to melt.
  2. Melt your butter over medium - high heat and add the pepper.
  3. Let it sizzle together for a minute then turn down the heat to low.
  4. Add ¼ cup pasta water and whisk vigorously to emulsify and then repeat with another 1/4 cup
  5. Keep agitating the pan and whisking until it thickens slightly.
  6. Add your cooked pasta into the pan and toss, reserve a cup of pasta water if you are draining it.
  7. Lower your heat to the lowest possible and add your cheese. You really need to agitate the pan here, shake it back and forth and give it a really good toss until the cheese is melted. The other way to do this is to sprinkle the cheese on top of the pasta and let it melt then toss together. Always on a low heat or no heat at all!
  8. Add the olives and most of the basil (reserve some for the top), give it another good toss and add some more pasta water if you need to loosen the sauce slightly. It should be glossy and thickened.
  9. Divide between heated bowls and top with the reserved fresh basil, lemon zest and parmesan


  • I have found after a lot of trial and error that the best way to prepare the cheese is using a smoothie maker or small food processor. The blade makes such easy work of it and it creates little crumbs of cheese that seem to melt really easily.
  • Once the cheese has been added you really need to toss the sauce around constantly so you don't end up with stringy balls of cheese. This can take a bit of practice!
  • If you use salted butter this might air on the side of too salty for you. I personally like my pasta dishes on the salty side so I don't mind it but use unsalted if you want to be safe!
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Vegetarian
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian inspired