Cacio e Pepe

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

A simple and authentic Roman pasta favourite

Cacio e Pepe (Cacio is ‘cheese’ in some Italian dialects, while pepe is simply ‘pepper’), is one of the simplest pasta dishes you can whip up. It consists of spaghetti, and a ‘sauce’ that comes together using freshly cracked pepper, pecorino Romano and lightly salted pasta water.

The recipe for Cacio e Pepe is said to have been handed down by shepherds from old Lazio (province of Rome) and Abruzzo. The trick according to its traditional origins is not to strain the pasta too much. In fact, Cacio e Pepe actually requires a bit of boiling salted pasta water (from the spaghetti) to melt down the cheese and pepper.

The ethics of making a ‘real’ Cacio e Pepe still sparks much debate and outrage amongst Italians. The purists stick to the traditional ingredients previously mentioned, and contest that the pepper must be freshly cracked and granule-y – some even grind it by hand. While others completely change the structure of Cacio e Pepe by adding olive oil, butter, mixing cheeses and even adding cream or egg to the mix – to the horror of the purists! Different techniques also apply when making the dish. For example, some people say that you must toast the pepper in a frying pan, then mix it with the cooked pasta mixing the pasta water and cheese together there. While others, mix all the ingredients in a bowl. I have tried most techniques and the best method seems to be the mix-in-bowl version, where the cheese emulsifies better and doesn’t stick or clump as it does in the pan.

Here is my version below, a simple but satisfying ‘spaghettata’ of Cacio e Pepe that the purists shouldn’t be too horrified by. The best part is you’ll be eating it in about 20 minutes! Note that Cacio e Pepe is a simple dish, it’s best eaten when you are short on time but starving.




Cacio e Pepe Recipe

Serves One Person


115g spaghetti

30g Pecorino Romano or Parmiggiano Reggiano, finely grated (sorry PURISTS!), plus extra to serve

2.5g pepper, plus extra to serve

Salted pasta water (kept on the boil after spaghetti has cooked)


Cacio e Pepe portrait 3


Cook your spaghetti in salted boiling water al dente. If the pasta packet doesn’t state the time to cook the pasta al dente, then cook your spaghetti for 2 minutes less than the prescribed regular time. Once you’ve placed the spaghetti in the boiling pot with salted water, mix the spaghetti through a few times to ensure it doesn’t clump together


In a ramekin or small bowl, mix the grated cheese and pepper together


Once the spaghetti are al dente, grab some tongs and place the spaghetti directly into your serving bowl – suspend the spaghetti lightly for a few seconds above the boiling pot before transferring to the serving bowl so it drains a little. Keep the salted water pot from the spaghetti on the boil, as well as a tablespoon at hand


Slowly add a sprinkle of the cheese and pepper mix onto the spaghetti, and with a spoon and fork toss the spaghetti, mixing the cheese and pepper together well. Now with the tablespoon you set aside, scoop a spoonful of the boiling salted spaghetti water onto the pasta and with your fork and spoon mix well. Sprinkle some more of the cheese and pepper mix, and add another spoonful of the boiling pasta water like before and mix well. Continue this process until you finish your cheese and pepper mix , and the cheese has melted well with the pasta (ensure you still have the extra cheese on hand for serving). According to the purists rather than being creamy, Cacio e Pepe should have a grainy consistency


Add a final sprinkling of cheese and a few cracks of pepper to serve and enjoy immediately!



Note: Try to add as little pasta water as possible, and ensure you add the cheese and pepper mix bit by bit rather than all at once to control the consistency of the ‘sauce’.