Pasta with Pecorino and Pepper (Cacio e Pepe) hails from Rome and delivers big flavor in 25 minutes. A zesty, cheesy pasta dish with just five ingredients (including the cooking water used in the sauce)!
This is the pasta dish you didn’t realize was missing from your life. And once you experience its delicious, brilliant simplicity, you’ll know you’ll be making it again and again.
For me, pasta with Pecorino and pepper is a combination of something old and something new. I grew up eating pasta with butter and Parmesan cheese, and that’s the first dish I taught my kids to cook, as soon as they were tall enough to use the stove. (My son was eight when he reached that milestone; my daughter was eleven.)
So, there’s something familiar about Cacio e Pepe, which hails from Rome. But Pecorino Romano, made from sheep’s milk, packs a more intense, zesty punch than Parmesan. And the pepper here (“cacio” refers to the cheese, and “pepe” means pepper), only adds to that punch.
But I had to reduce the traditional tablespoon of pepper down to 2/3 of a teaspoon for a pound of pasta. (The ingredients shown above are for half a pound of spaghetti.) The pepper provides just enough zing without making my eyes water. Heat seekers, like my hubby, can always add more to theirs.
The other (surprising) difference is…there’s no butter in authentic Cacio e Pepe. A little of the starchy water from cooking the pasta is gradually stirred into a bowl of grated Pecorino and pepper, until a sauce forms. Then, the pasta gets mixed into the bowl.
But don’t be tempted to skip the bowl and mix everything in your pot on the stove. The heat will cause the Pecorino Romano to clump and harden into huge gobs instead of coating your pasta in a velvety sauce.
I learned that the hard way, during several rounds of testing. I also realized the amount of reserved pasta water you add can make or break this recipe. I’m providing an exact measurement in the recipe to spare you watery results from being overzealous with your ladle.
But I do recommend saving extra pasta water to add a tiny bit more if there’s any delay in eating. This is one dish best consumed immediately, before it gets dry.
Now that you know the secrets to success, this recipe will be a cinch for you! Go, make some pasta with Pecorino and pepper.
It’s great with spaghetti No. 4, (not to be confused with Chanel No. 5). But it works well with linguine or farfalle too.
I’ll take the aroma of freshly cooked pasta over perfume any day.
P.S. If cheesy pasta is your jam, check out my Pasta Carbonara with Shallots or my Linguine with Creamy Walnut Sauce. Serve the pasta with The Best Italian Green Salad with Homemade Dressing, and you’ve got a quick, easy and delicious meal.
(Recipe Source: Adapted from La Cucina, The Regional Cooking of Italy [that’s my affiliate link] – I doubled the cheese, reduced the pepper by more than two thirds and specified an amount of pasta water to mix in.)