This shop featuring my recipe for cacio e pepe was originally a sponsored post. Some links in this post are affiliate links that earn me a commission if you purchase through them.
Do you know what I did yesterday? I spent almost the entire day working on organizing my garage. Silly me, I thought it would be an easy task.
I had some cool pulley systems to install on the ceiling to hang our bikes. The garage system I’d installed before had a few extra pieces to add on. All in all, this should have been a two to three hour project – or so I thought in my head.
In reality, this project took almost seven hours and two trips to the hardware store, but only one bandage for a minor injury (to me).
I still have one wall accessory not hung because I misjudged how many screws we needed to buy and couldn’t stomach another trip to the hardware store, and only two bikes are hung instead of four because now that I see how they hang, I can’t decide where to place the other two.
Did I mention this is a two person (minimum) job? I have awesome friends who put up with my nonsense and big ideas, and I’m pretty sure they know I reward them in food and drink once we finish.
Would you believe that I met my step target just walking back and forth in my garage, up and down ladders all day?
As grateful as I was to my friend for helping, I owed her something to eat. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the energy to create a grand feast or anything super complicated.
That’s when I remembered cacio e pepe. I make this every Christmas for my aunt, who can’t eat my traditional lasagna. I started making it because it was such a simple and quick addition to our Christmas Eve dinner, but the flavor of the cacio e pepe is way beyond the simplicity of its ingredients.
What is cacio e pepe?
If you’ve never had this dish, you’re in for a treat – just like my friend. Had she not watched me create this dish, she would never have believed I prepared it in just fifteen minutes.
Cacio e pepe is Italian for cheese and pepper, the two primary flavors of this dish. They meld with butter and pasta water (an Italian trick to great pasta!) to create a creamy sauce.
Traditionally, make this with linguine, as it holds the sauce well. You can also choose to make it with a thick spaghetti or other pasta, if you choose.
What if I forget to save the pasta water?
If you forget and toss your pasta water, you aren’t alone. My husband does this regularly (unfortunately).
That said, you can still make this without the pasta water. You’ll need to use tap water instead, preferably warm water.
It won’t be exactly the same, as the starch from the pasta water helps to make the sauce as thick and rich and delicious as it should be. You may also need to add a touch of salt to make up for what you lost without the pasta water.
If you are a visual learner, check out the video tutorial
How to Make Cacio e Pepe
This recipe uses two pots. Heat your water in a pasta pot, and be sure to add salt, enough to impart some flavor into your pasta and raise the boiling temperature of your water.
Your other pot should be a skillet large enough to hold your cooked pasta with room to spare.
Once the water boils, add your pasta and let it cook. Set your timer for two minutes less than the package instructions.
You want this to be slightly more al dente than you’re used to. While the pasta cooks, turn the heat in your second pot to medium and add the butter and freshly ground pepper.
Let the butter melt then bubble. I love the flavor of browned butter, so let it keep cooking until it starts to darken, then turn off the heat.
When the pasta finishes cooking, remove the pasta but do not dump the water and do not rinse the pasta. You need this for you sauce.
Add the drained pasta to the pot with the browned butter and turn the heat to medium low. Using tongs, toss the pasta with the butter and pepper.
Add 3/4 cup of pasta water and start adding the freshly grated cheese. Just dip your liquid measuring cup carefully into your pot with the pasta water and scoop out what you need.
This is not the time to use something you get from a can. Use your favorite Italian cheeses – Parmesan, Asiago, Pecorino Romano, etc – or a combination. Use a box grater or pull out your food processor and grate up a block.
Add a small handful at a time and toss your pasta with tongs between additions so the cheese melts. If you add too much at once, it turns into a big clumpy mess that’s much harder to melt. Add more pasta water as the water evaporates.
Toss again to ensure the cheese melted entirely and the pasta achieved a good consistency. Serve immediately.
I like to add a touch more freshly grated cheese and some extra fresh pepper to the pasta just before I eat.
Enjoy cacio e pepe leftovers
Save one last cup of your pasta water in a tightly sealed container.
If you have leftovers, add a little pasta water to the portion you reheat. This creates the creamy consistency you enjoyed when it was fresh.
Truly, you just made a simple but complex pasta in fifteen minutes. Now go impress your friends!
Have you ever tried cacio e pepe?
More favorite pasta dishes to try:
- Tuna and tomato pasta
- Weeknight 3 cheese lasagna roll ups
- Easy cheesy stuffed pasta shells
- Mediterranean chicken with orzo
- Spinach orzo salad
- Seafood pasta in a white wine sauce
- Fresh bruschetta pasta
- Penne with spicy vodka sauce
Cacio e Pepe
This delicious and easy traditional Italian pasta recipe uses just four ingredients but creates amazingly complex flavor in just 15 minutes. If you've never tried cacio e pepe before, you're in for a treat!
- 1 lb spaghetti or fettucine, uncooked
- 3 T butter
- 1 t pepper
- 1 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Bring salted water for pasta to a boil. Once boiling, add pasta and set timer for 2 minutes less than package instructions.
- In a separate pot, turn heat to medium and add butter and freshly ground pepper. Brown the butter, 3-4 minutes, then turn off the heat.
- Drain but do not rinse pasta, and save pasta water. Add drained pasta to browned butter and turn heat to medium low. Using tongs, toss the pasta with the butter and pepper. Add 3/4 cup of pasta water and start adding the freshly grated cheese, a small handful at a time. Toss between additions so the cheese melts.
- Add pasta water as necessary to keep it from drying out. Once all cheese is melted, serve immediately. Top plates of pasta with additional Parmesan and a touch of pepper.
If you have leftovers, save a cup of pasta water in a separate container. When reheating a serving, add a bit of pasta water to help achieve the original creamy texture.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 343Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 42mgSodium: 480mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 13g
This site uses an outside source to provide nutrition. If you need exact details, please calculate yourself.
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