When I was a waiter a million years ago, I remember bartenders always putting out salty or peppery snacks on the bar. The reason? To get people to drink more. Smart business move.

But after 30 years of cooking for friends and family, I’ve discovered there’s actually some gustatory magic at play. Salty, cheesy, peppery snacks pair perfectly with a cold bottle of bubbly–Prosecco or Cava. They play nicely together and have a way of making you that much more hungry for dinner.

david caricature

Why Our Testers Loved This

My testers describe this recipe for cheese straws as “quick, tasty, and fun!” Patricia S. loved the “bold punch of flavor from the generous amounts of cheese and black pepper,” especially paired with “the light and crunchy pastry.”

Cheese straws on an oval wooden platter on a distressed wooden surface.

What You’ll Need to Make This

Ingredients for peppery cheese straws--Parmesan, puff pastry, pepper, and egg.
  • Parmesan cheese–If it’s in your budget, go for Parmigiano-Reggiano, the culinary Eve of all Parmesan cheeses. Grate the cheese by hand from a block of cheese right before using. Pre-grated Parmesan doesn’t melt well and lacks flavor.
  • Puff pastry–Use the best-quality puff pastry you can find. Your package should contain two pastry sheets, but if it comes as one single sheet, simply cut it in half.

What Brand of Puff Pastry Should I Use?

I rarely recommend particular food brands because every cook has her favorites and budget. But this is one case where I feel I must. Dufour puff pastry is made with 100% butter, not vegetable shortening, like most frozen puff pastries. The flavor is incomparable, and there’s none of that weird film that coats the inside of your mouth. It’s worth seeking out if you can.

How to Make Cheese Straws

A person rolling out puff pastry and brushing it with egg yolk.
  1. Roll one sheet of the pastry into a 12-inch (30-cm) square.
  2. Brush the whole sheet generously with beaten egg.
Parmesan and pepper mixed in a glass bowl and a person sprinkling it over a large square of puff pastry.
  1. Mix the cheese and pepper in a small bowl.
  2. Sprinkle half of the cheese and pepper over the surface of the puff pastry sheet.
Puff pastry folded in half and a person rolling it out.
  1. Fold the top half of the pastry over the bottom.
  2. Roll the folded pastry so that the two halves stick together. Sprinkle the top with any excess cheese that fell on the work surface.
A person twisting cheese straws and a row of cheese straws lined up on a baking sheet.
  1. Cut the pastry into 12 even strips. Twist each pastry strip several times until shortened to about 4 to 5 inches (10 cm to 13 cm).
  1. Line the pastry twists up on a sheet of parchment paper and repeat with the remaining pastry and filling. Place the twists on a baking sheet and bake at 400°F (200°C) until golden. Serve warm.
Cheese straws on a wooden oval platter on a blue and white tiled background.

Common Questions

Can I make these in advance?

To a point. You can assemble the cheese straws a few hours before serving and store them in the fridge covered with plastic wrap. Bake them and serve them warm when they are at their best.

What should I serve with these cheese twists?

These are easy hors d’oeuvres that pair wonderfully with sparkling wine. Other hors d’oeuvres that would go nicely alongside the cheese straws include gougères, shrimp toast, prosciutto, and brie crostini.

Alternatively, you could enjoy these as part of a light lunch or dinner with a bowl of tomato soup.

Helpful Tips

  • If you’d prefer longer, thinner puff pastry cheese straws, tug gently on the pastry as you twist it to elongate the dough. The baking time will be a bit slightly shorter.
  • These are best served fresh and warm. I don’t recommend cooking them in advance.
Cheese straws on an oval wooden platter on a distressed wooden surface.

More Easy Cheese Hors d’Oeuvre Recipes

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

Cheese straws on an oval wooden platter on a distressed wooden surface.

Peppery Cheese Straws

5 / 2 votes
These crispy, peppery cheese straws are inspired by the famous pasta cacio e pepe, which means cheese and pepper in Italian. And like the pasta, it’s just as delicious, cheesy, and spicy.
David Leite
CourseHors d’Oeuvres
CuisineItalian
Servings20 to 24 twists
Calories167 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time35 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 5 ounces Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano, if possible), freshly grated
  • 1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus more, depending on your heat tolerance
  • One (16-to 18-ounce) package frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 large egg, well beaten

Instructions 

  • Crank up the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or, better, a nonstick silicone sheet.
  • Mix the cheese and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Unfold 1 puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll it into a 12-inch (30-cm) square and liberally brush the surface with egg.
  • Sprinkle half the cheese-pepper concoction over the pastry, gently pressing it into the egg.
  • Fold the top half of the pastry down and over the bottom half; you should have a 12-inch-wide by 6-inch-tall pastry. Gather any cheese that fell on the work surface and sprinkle it on top of the pastry. Carefully roll the pastry with the rolling pin so it sticks together.
  • Cut 12 one-inch-wide (25-mm) strips with a sharp knife or pastry cutter.
  • Twist each strip several times until about 4 to 5 inches in length (the pastry will shorten when twisted) and place them on the prepared sheet 1 inch (25 mm) apart. Repeat with the remaining pastry sheet and cheese mixture.
  • Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Notes

  1. Make them longer–If you’d prefer longer, thinner puff pastry cheese straws, tug gently on the pastry as you twist it to elongate the dough. The baking time will be slightly shorter.
  2. Serving–These are best served fresh and warm. I don’t recommend baking these in advance.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 twistCalories: 167 kcalCarbohydrates: 11 gProtein: 5 gFat: 11 gSaturated Fat: 4 gMonounsaturated Fat: 6 gTrans Fat: 0.001 gCholesterol: 14 mgSodium: 178 mgFiber: 0.4 gSugar: 0.2 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2023 David Leite. Photos © 2023 David Leite. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Peppery cheese straws arranged upright in a jar with one resting on top of a cocktail glass.

Talk about straightforward pastry twists! These were quick, tasty, and fun.

Luckily, my puff pastry measured 30 cm square so I didn’t need to roll the dough until incorporating the cheese and pepper. I measured the cheese and the pepper and thought it might be too much. It was not. However, if you happened not to have quite enough cheese or wanted less pepper, it would also have worked.

My twists baked into golden strands in 15 minutes. I allowed them to rest for 5 minutes on a baking rack. These were crispy and tasty. I enjoyed them dipped into spicy seafood sauce for an extra layer of oomph. They paired amazingly well with a glass of Barolo.

Peppery cheese straws on a sheet of parchment.

These cacio e pepe puff pastry twists are a great addition to your appetizer selection for the upcoming holiday season. The bold punch of flavor from the generous amounts of cheese and black pepper goes perfectly with the light and crunchy pastry. Warning….they are highly addictive!

These are definitely best served warm from the oven, and do not hold up well.

I had a group of middle schoolers over for dinner on Halloween, and this easy cheese straws recipe was a perfect pairing for the pepperoni pizza dinner I had planned. The twists were easy to make, had a good flavor (I would add some garlic powder the next time as a variation), and they disappeared faster than a ghost.


These puff pastry cheese straws are great if eaten fresh. They were warm and puffy with a slight crunch but still with a bready texture. I recommend baking a bit longer to a DARK golden brown and adding a light sprinkle of salt and paprika.

Once cooled, they did lose the eggy taste of the warm strips, but they became tougher and less crunchy. Don’t bother baking too far ahead, or just plan to reheat before serving. Be sure to serve them warm.




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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