Cacio e Pepe with Pancetta and Arugula

This riff on cacio e pepe with pancetta and arugula packs a flavor wallop. Curly pasta is tossed with Parmigiano-Reggiano and pecorino-Romano cheeses, butter, crisped pancetta, and wilted greens.

Cacio e pepe with pancetta and arugula--curly pasta with, cubes of pancetta, cooked arugula, cheese and butter

This weeknight pasta fix, a riff on an Italian classic, is all about the ingredients. “Cacio e pepe” literally translates as cheese and pepper, the two predominant ingredients, so by all means splurge for the real deal Parmigiano-Reggiano and pecorino Romano. And not that preshredded stuff. Ditto for buying already ground black pepper. Then behold the magic of quality ingredients, brought together with a little care and finesse, to glam up tradition. Any short pasta with curves and curls will work beautifully to capture the light, creamy sauce punctuated with crisp, salty nuggets of pancetta and barely wilted arugula. If baby kale or spinach is more your groove, or if you’d prefer to toss in some artichokes or roasted asparagus, by all means, don’t let us, or tradition, stop you.–Jenny Howard

Cacio e Pepe with Pancetta and Arugula

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 40 M
  • Serves 4 to 6
Print RecipeBuy the Giada’s Italy cookbook

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  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound creste di gallo pasta (cock’s comb shaped) or other short, curly pasta
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 pound pancetta, cut into 1/3-inch (8-mm) chunks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more (optional) for serving
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 oz), at room temperature
  • 3 cups packed baby arugula, roughly chopped


  • 1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook 2 minutes less than the package directions, about 8 minutes. Drain well, reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta cooking water.
  • 2. Meanwhile, in a large, straight-sided skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring often, until the pancetta is crisp, about 8 minutes. Stir in the pepper and toast until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in 1/2 cup reserved pasta water and combine, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any crisp bits of pancetta that are sticking to the bottom of the skillet.
  • 3. Add the drained pasta to the skillet and sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Toss quickly to combine. Drizzle another 1/2 cup reserved pasta water over the pasta and stir well to coat all of the pasta in the cheese sauce. Scatter the pecorino over the pasta and drop in the knob of butter, tossing everything together until butter and cheese melt, creating a light, creamy, cheese sauce. Add the arugula and stir until it wilts, 2 to 3 minutes. If a thinner, lighter consistency for the sauce is desired, incorporate the additional reserved pasta water. Serve with more grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, if desired.

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