Cacio e Pepe

This authentic cacio e pepe recipe relies on pantry staples of pasta, cheese, salt, pepper, and olive oil as well as a nifty cooking technique to put dinner on the table before you know it.

A metal skillet filled with cacio e pepe and a long silver rounded fork resting in it with a bowl of Parmesan on the side.

“There are many ways to make this classic dish of cacio e pepe and each Roman cook will show you some slightly different way to manipulate pasta, cheese, and pepper into a wonderful, warm bowl of comfort food.” So begins this seemingly unassuming recipe for authentic cacio e pepe. But when you peruse the instructions, that’s when the magic truly begins. The recipe relies on a method known as “risotto,” so called because it is like making a risotto. The pasta is cooked not in a pot of salted water but in a frying pan just large enough to contain the spaghetti. As the cooking water is absorbed by the pasta the liquid in the pan reduces and becomes the sauce. Nifty, eh? And that’s just in theory. Wait’ll you taste it.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Cacio e Pepe

  • Quick Glance
  • (4)
  • 25 M
  • 25 M
  • Serves 2 to 4
5/5 - 4 reviews
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Ingredients


Directions

Grab your largest saucepan (you want it to be around 12 inches or 30 centimeters in diameter or large enough for the spaghetti to lie in a single layer) and place it over medium heat. Add the oil and pepper and heat until you can smell the heady spice of the pepper, about 2 minutes.

Add the spaghetti to the pan along with the salt and about 2 cups (16 fluid ounces) water. You’ll want to watch out as the water may sputter when added to the hot oil. Add the remaining 2 1/4 cups (18 fluid ounces) hot water, little by little, as you would with risotto—that is to say, add a ladleful of hot water and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is almost but not completely absorbed before adding another ladleful of water. Repeat until the spaghetti is al dente and the water has reduced to a soupy consistency, 8 to 10 minutes. If the pasta starts to look dry, add a little more water but no more than a total of 5 cups (40 fluid ounces).

While the pasta is cooking, warm some bowls in a low oven. (Don’t ignore this step. It helps ensure the creamy sauce clinging to the pasta doesn’t turn to clumps.)

When the pasta is ready, remove the pan from the heat and add the cheese, a little at a time, stirring furiously and constantly, until a smooth and creamy sauce forms. Serve the cacio e pepe straight away in the hot bowls.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

Wowee! I'll be making this cacio e pepe recipe again and again. Completely surprised by the easy method and the taste—both are fabulous. It's the dish to make when you think there's no food in the house. A few simple ingredients, paired with a glass of wine, and voilà—you have a fancy dinner! I used pecorino Romano cheese. We had some leftovers, and they reheated okay in the microwave with a drizzle of olive oil and a quick stir after a minute or so.

To be honest, I didn't think this recipe would work. But it's genius. The pasta was perfectly cooked. The sauce was super creamy and tasty. And all done in 10 minutes. I'm in love! It took me about 8 minutes to cook the pasta, but I used fresh pasta (linguini by Bertolli ). I boiled water in the electric kettle, and in the meanwhile roasted the fresh ground pepper (I used a tricolored pepper) in the olive oil. Added the fresh pasta and a cup of boiling water. Stirred every minute or so, adding more water. After 8 minutes, the pasta was perfect. Added about 1/2 cup additional hot water and the cheese and stirred fiercely with a wooden spoon for about 30 seconds. Done. Perfect creamy sauce, coating the pasta nicely. The cheese I used was a young Reggiano. Love it and will give it a try with carbonara. The 4 servings is accurate, especially when you use it as a pasta course in an Italian meal.

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Comments

  1. We added fresh parsley, fresh basil, pressed garlic, chopped shallots, and kielbasa (pretty sure you can add any protein of choice)…it was wonderful!

  2. Thank you, Renee, I really appreciate you checking on this for me. I knew it was a silly question even before I sent it, but after reading the comments I knew everyone would love it so I was hoping beyond hope someone had some little known hint I could use. Shakes fist at reality indeed ;). I should never read Leite’s Culinaria when I’m starving! I’ve come back down to earth now so I’ll keep searching for ideas. I’m sure your Thanksgiving dinner for 40 was superb.

    1. Thanks for your understanding! We’d be happy to help in any way, just let us know. May I suggest something that’s served either cold or at room temperature? Or at the very least that has components that you can make ahead. But then, you already know all this. Anyways, let us know how we can contribute!

      1. Thank you for the suggestions. I’m all about making as much as possible ahead but I’m just the helper so we’ll see what the people in charge think.

  3. I know it’s been about a year since you posted this recipe but I was wondering if there was a way to make this cacio e pepe for a large crowd? I’ve been asked by a family member to help with a party that could be for anywhere from 2 to 4 dozen people and I was hoping to make this as a side dish. Or is this just wishful thinking on my part because everyones comments make it sound so good that I know it would be a big hit?

    1. Hey MaryAnn, I’m going to check with a couple folks I know who make pasta more often than I do and I’ll let you know if they have any thoughts. My initial hunch is that it’s going to tricky to do for so many because often cream sauces don’t hold that well and may get a touch thick. And with feeding so many people inevitably the pasta is going to have to sit at room temperature. I think it won’t kill anybody to eat it but it won’t be as magnificent as it is when it’s made in small batches and devoured seconds from coming straight off the stove.

      1. MaryAnn, I just heard back from Beth Price, our director of recipe testing, who has made this recipe several times at home. She’s concerned, too, that the recipe will suffer in terms of quality. Also, she points out that you would need a very large stove with lots of burners and the ability to juggle numerous pans at once. And the pasta really needs to be served right off the heat into warmed bowls. I’m sorry, but often our favorite dishes that we most want to serve to friends and families simply don’t translate well to large gatherings. (I know. We just served 40 of my husband’s closest relatives for Thanksgiving out of a single small kitchen. The menu I created drew compliments but it was very restrained compared to what I would have served if there was, say, 8 or 12 of us. Shakes fist at reality.)

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