Cacio e Pepe Recipe

Dive into a bowl of decadence with our Cacio e Pepe recipe, an Italian classic that combines rich Parmesan cheese and black pepper in perfect harmony for a classic dinner idea that both kids and adults will love.

two bowls of cacio e pepe pasta

This pasta dish literally translates to “cheese and pepper”, and it’s the perfect minimalist date night pasta that only requires 5 ingredients and all of 10 minutes to make.

Since no one wants to fuss in the kitchen on a romantic night in, put this pasta on your must-make list. It’s a simple, classic easy dinner idea that’s always a hit! Plus, how can you go wrong with finely grating cheese and pasta? 

Even those of you who don’t enjoy cooking will find joy with this recipe. It’s practically fool-proof and will impress anyone you end up serving it to. Trust us, we’ve served this to many dinner dates over the years, all with rave reviews. And now we cook it for the kids and receive no complaints!

the perfect date night pasta - sugar and cloth

What is Cacio e Pepe?

Cacio e Pepe is a classic Italian Roman pasta dish that traditionally features spaghetti, bucatini, or other pasta varieties, tossed with a sauce made from finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly ground pepper, and pasta cooking water.

The dish is known for its creamy sauce achieved by emulsifying the cheese with the starchy pasta water and creating a smooth, velvety sauce.

It’s as simple as bringing the water to a boil, add the pasta, and season with salt until the pasta is al dente. The magic of this recipe is in using half of the pasta cooking water. 

You’ll grate the cheese of your choice and combine it with a cup of reserved pasta water in a skillet over medium heat. The starch leftover from the pasta water coats the pasta and helps the butter and cheese mixture to stick. Pretty cool kitchen trick, right?! 

the perfect date night pasta - sugar and cloth

Ingredients Needed

Of course, there’s a little more to this simple pasta dish when it comes to picking out the best ingredients! The magic is all in the cheese and pasta selections. Our version is made:

  • Freshly grated Pecorino romano cheese — Use high-quality Pecorino Romano cheese for authentic flavor. Its saltiness is a crucial component of the dish. You can also sub it for Parmigiano reggiano cheese or Grana padano cheese.
  • Spaghetti noodles — Or other traditionally used noodles such as bucatini pasta or fettuccine pasta. Feel free to experiment with different pasta shapes. The key is to choose a pasta that can hold the creamy sauce.
  • Unsalted butter — Salted butter works too.
  • Freshly ground black pepper — Coarsely grind it just before using to preserve its aromatic qualities.
  • Salt — Some recipes experiment with black sea salt

Step by Step Instructions

1 — Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. For the best tasting pasta, liberally salt the pot of water before you add the pasta. This will reduce the amount of salt you need to add later or create flavorful strands of pasta before you add the sauce. Cook the spaghetti according to the package instructions until al dente.

2 — While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over low-medium heat. Add the butter and cook until melted. Stir in the freshly cracked ground black pepper to the skillet, and reduce heat to low, stirring often. Toast it for about 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to burn the pepper.

3 — Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooked pasta water. This part is essential! You want the starchy pasta water to help the sauce cling to the cooked noodles. 

4 — Add the cooked drained pasta directly to the skillet with the toasted pepper, along with a 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Stir to combine.

5 — Gradually add the grated Pecorino Romano cheese, tossing the pasta continuously to create a creamy, emulsified sauce. If needed, add more pasta water to achieve the desired consistency. Serve immediately. Garnish with additional black pepper and Pecorino Romano if desired.

the perfect date night pasta - sugar and cloth

What to Pair with Cacio e Pepe

While this pasta dinner is meant to be served by itself, you could easily serve it as a pasta side dish. Some pairing options or ingredient add-ons include:

  • Olive oil and bread with garlic
  • Zero carb bread if you want to watch your calories
  • Your favorite red wine like a classic Chianti or Sangiovese to balance the peppery pasta 
  • White wine like Pinot Grigio
  • Minced garlic
  • Meatballs
  • Your favorite dinner protein such as Italian chicken
  • Sautéed greens like chopped green spinach 
  • Top with finely grated cheese

How Long Does Cacio e Pepe Pasta Last?

If you’re going to spend time making a nice dinner, it never hurts to save a bit for later! You can store your cacio e pepe pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator and ideally use it all within three days. 

the perfect date night pasta - sugar and cloth

How to Reheat Your Pasta

There are several tried and true ways to reheat your favorite pasta dishes. You can bake them in the oven, reheat them on the stove, or our least favorite but easiest, microwave them. 

Oven: Put the pasta in a shallow bowl, cover with foil, and bake at 350F degrees for 20 minutes.

Microwave: Do the same for the microwave (minus the foil), but you’ll only need to allot 30 to 60 seconds depending on your serving size.

Saucepan: Keep the pasta covered and reheat on medium to low while stirring occasionally until it’s completely warm.

With any of these methods, be sure to keep the pasta dish covered while reheating so that the moisture remains as to not dry out your favorite recipe. 

How to Store Leftover Cacio e Pepe Pasta

To store the leftover Cacio e Pepe pasta, put it in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for 3 days. The cheese sauce will harden when exposed to cold temperature but will become creamy again when reheated.

the perfect date night pasta - sugar and cloth

More Easy Dinner Ideas

Besides the perfect date-night dish, this pasta makes an excellent last-minute meal whenever the craving strikes. Healthier than fettuccini alfredo, but just as delicious, this is comfort food done right. What’s your go-to date night meal?

In case you’re looking for more easy dinner ideas, here are a few of our favorites —

two bowls of cacio e pepe pasta

Cacio e Pepe Recipe

Print Recipe
4.96 from 21 votes
In case you're looking for the perfect date night pasta, this Cacio e Pepe recipe is it!
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Pastas

Equipment

  • Pasta pan
  • Skillet
  • Pasta strainer

Ingredients

  • 8 oz pasta either fresh fettuccini, bucatini or spaghetti
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese can sub Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Salt

Nutrition

Calories: 277kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 71mg | Sodium: 840mg | Potassium: 377mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1125IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 291mg | Iron: 1mg
Servings: 2
Calories: 277kcal

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. For the best tasting pasta, liberally salt the pot of water before you add the pasta. This will reduce the amount of salt you need to add later or create flavorful strands of pasta before you add the sauce. Cook the spaghetti according to the package instructions until al dente.
  • While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over low-medium heat. Add the butter and cook until melted. Stir in the freshly cracked ground black pepper to the skillet, and reduce heat to low, stirring often. Toast it for about 1-2 minutes. Be careful not to burn the pepper.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooked pasta water. This part is essential! You want the starchy pasta water to help the sauce cling to the cooked noodles. 
  • Add the cooked drained pasta directly to the skillet with the toasted pepper, along with a 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Stir to combine.
  • Gradually add the grated Pecorino Romano cheese, tossing the pasta continuously to create a creamy, emulsified sauce. If needed, add more pasta water to achieve the desired consistency. Serve immediately. Garnish with additional black pepper and Pecorino Romano if desired.
KEYWORD: Cacio e Pepe

Don’t forget to share your cacio e pepe pasta with us on Instagram using the hashtag #sugarandclothloves. We always love seeing all of your creations! Looking for more quick and delicious recipes? Find them all right here with a few cocktails to go along with them!

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18 Comments

  1. I love pasta so much. Make this beautiful dish once a week. It helps in an energy boost. These are some of the best frozen food online. These could save you time and good for the health too.5 stars

  2. Yummy!! You can’t go wrong with a simple pasta like this. Butter, pepper, and parmesan cheese is all you need! :)5 stars

  3. Just wondering where you learned to make this or where the recipe came from? Did you go to cooking school? I always like to know the background of bloggers’ recipes. Thanks!

    1. Hi Christina! This was actually a guest post by Alexandra Caspero. Her bio and link is at the bottom of the post. She’s a registered dietitian with her own blog. We did not go to cooking school though! Ashley went to school for graphic design. Hope this help!

  4. I love simple pasta! I make pasta aglio e olio a lot which is very similar (but with red pepper flakes, garlic and parsley added). It is great with homemade pasta.5 stars