There's a lot to say about this dish. Let's keep it simple though. Point a) This is my favourite pasta dish. Point b) I do not make it the traditional way and I make no apologies. I am not Italian! The traditional way is just pasta water, pepper and cheese but I make it with butter too because....yum! People who have a problem with that can just shhhh OR make it anyway you like, I'm not saying this is the best and only way. Wow, sorry got a bit aggressive there, let's get on with it shall we?
A note on the ingredients for Cacio e Pepe
Pasta - this is traditionally made with pici so check out my guide on how to make hand rolled pici pasta. It works really well with hardy shapes so gnocchi sardi or orecchiette work perfectly. Dried is also great as it is so sturdy. I have specified 100g per person in the recipe.
Butter - As I have said this is a touch controversial but let's just get past that. I use unsalted as I prefer to season myself but salted will work fine.
Cheese - traditionally it is a split of parmesan and pecorino. You can do what you like here, all pecorino, all parmesan or a split of both. Whatever you prefer!
Pepper - I freshly grind black pepper for this dish and the amount is up to you. I would start with 1 Tbsp and see what you think, it's easy to add more.
Pasta water - as always this is your secret weapon here so make sure you save a good amount as you can keep adding it if you need to loosen the sauce.
Tips for making the best cacio e pepe
- Timing, as always for pasta, is kind of crucial. This takes practice, it takes no time at all to bring this sauce together so you only start melting the butter when your pasta is almost cooked.
- Letting the cheese melt on top is key to getting an emulsified sauce. Ever tried to add parmesan to butter and it becomes a stringy balled up mess? The key is letting the grated cheese sit on top of the pasta and melting before mixing through. I have reel showing this.
- Finely grated cheese is also the only way to go, preferably with a microplane. A box grater isn't going to get the cheese fine enough to melt evenly and quickly.
Cacio e Pepe
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 2 people
An easy cacio e pepe recipe that will become your go to comfort pasta dish. A cheesy peppery delight.
- 70g unsalted butter, cubed (salted is fine if that's all you have)
- ½ - 1 Tbsp freshly ground pepper (see notes)
- 70g cheese, finely grated, it can be all parmesan or a split of parmesan and pecorino
- 200g pasta of your choice
- Melt your butter over medium - high heat and add the pepper.
- Let it sizzle together for a minute then turn down the heat to low.
- Add ¼ cup pasta water and whisk vigorously to emulsify
- Repeat with another ¼ cup pasta water
- Add your cooked pasta in and give it a toss in the butter
- Lower the heat to the lowest possible and sprinkle the cheese directly on the pasta and let it melt on top, don't touch or mix until it has melted. (should only take 30 secs - 1 min)
- Give it a good vigorous toss until you have a nicely emulsified and thickened sauce.
- Add more pasta water to loosen if you need.
- Start with ½ Tbsp pepper as it is easier to add more than take away!
- Make sure your cheese is really finely grated, a microplane is ideal.
- This is for two but easily doubles
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 mins
Great recipe, feel like the butter really helps bring the sauce together. Tasted very authentic. I added a little too much pepper but will modify next time.
Emilie Pullar says
Hi Alex! Thank you so muxch, butter makes everything better! The amount of pepper is tricky, you'll have it sussed next time 🙂
Alex Fuchs says
Love this recipe! Thank you for breaking it down so well! I had a quick question, everytime I try and make it I notice that my cheese still gets a little clumpy instead of creamy... is that because my parmesan quality might not be the best? or because my temp is too high?
Thanks so much!
Emilie Pullar says
Hi Alex, so sorry for my late reply! I turn my heat to the lowest when I add the cheese and really let it slowly melt on top before giving it the quickest toss. I have a highlight on my instagram showing the process 🙂
When I die, just bury me in cacio e pepe. Your tips for getting a silky sauce are SO helpful - thank you!
I tried to make a cacio e pepe once (not this recipe) and it was so peppery it was inedible, but I wanted to give it another go and since not a single one of Em's recipes have ever steered me wrong, I knew this had to be the recipe to use! I made this for my parents when I was visiting them and it turned out absolutely perfect - there were no leftovers from that meal!
Kathy Marvin says
This silky perfect sauce is amazing!! No cheese clumping and great taste. I did add a bit more pepper and I toasted the fresh ground pepper before anything else. Thank you!!
Emilie Pullar says
Hi Kathy! So glad you loved the sauce! I always put more pepper in too! 🙂
Absolutely delicious. I have always had clumping. Emilie’s step-by-step is so helpful. Will make again and again!