Cacio e Pepe is one of my most favourite uncomplicated comfort dishes.
It is insanely good.
Cacio e Pepe literally translates to cheese and pepper.
This recipe can be created in very little time and requires very few ingredients. For Cacio e Pepe to be as great as it should be, you must have the technique right and use top quality ingredients.
In my family, this Cacio e Pepe is five stars and all five forks in!
Here are my tips and tricks to set you on your way to Cacio e Pepe success time and time again.
Tips and tricks:
- Peppercorns: For maximum flavour, toast the peppercorns in a hot, dry frying pan until aromatic. Cool and then grind coarsely in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.
Although the toasted and ground pepper is added to the pan and cooked with butter, I like to add Aleppo pepper to the finished dish. Again, it is not traditional, but I firmly believe it adds to its beauty.
- The Cheese: The cheese must be very finely grated before you start cooking. I find a Microplane does the best job for this. Many recipes call for Pecorino Romano OR Parmesan, but authentic Cacio e Pepe is made with Pecorino Romano. It is also essential to ensure the cheese is at room temperature.
- Pasta water: Reserve the pasta water: Don’t be tempted to scoop out some pasta water too early. You want the water to be very starchy, and waiting until the pasta is cooked and the water has maximum starch is vital.
This starchy water emulsifies with the cheese and butter to create the extra creamy, rich sauce.
- Technique: Quick and easy aren’t necessarily the same thing.
Making a smooth sauce from dry cheese and water is a skill that needs to be learned.
In this Cacio e Pepe recipe, I’ve detailed the most successful way to achieve a gloriously silky, cohesive, lump-free sauce every time.
It is a pleasure to be sharing this recipe with you here.
With love & wishing you happy baking days always,
For more great recipes like this one and lots of dinner inspiration, we’d love to sign and send and copy of the Relish Mama cookbooks direct to your door. Consider them your new best friend in the kitchen.
Perfect Cacio e Pepe
- Frying pan
- Saucepan to cook pasta
- Mortar and pestle or a spice grinder
- Fine grater - a microplane is ideal
- 4 tsp black peppercorns plus a little extra for serving
- 400 g thick spaghetti or use pici pasta
- 20 ml (1 tablespoon) extra virgin olive oil
- 100 g unsalted butter cubed
- 150 g pecorino romano at room temperature, finely grated
- Optional - A sprinkling of Aleppo pepper flakes instead of the additional ground black pepper if desired.
- Toast the peppercorns in a hot, dry frying pan until aromatic. Cool and then grind coarsely in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.
- Bring a wide saucepan of water to a boil. Season it very well with salt. The water should taste as salty as the sea. To know how much water, the pasta should be covered but only just as we want maximum starchiness in that water at the end of the cooking time.
- Once the water is rapidly boiling. Add the pasta, occasionally stirring to ensure it doesn't stick. Cook for a minute or two short of the suggested cooking times on your pasta packaging. The pasta should be a little less than al dente.
- Strain the pasta (reserving 250ml of the hot starchy water).
- Drain the pasta and leave it & the water to cool for a minute or two.
- Melt approximately 2/3 of the butter with olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. While the butter is melting, add the freshly grounded pepper. Stir or swirl the pan for a minute or so. The butter should be fully melted.
- Turn the heat to very low.
- Carefully whisk in 200ml reserved pasta water.
- Add the pasta into the pan with the melted butter & pepper. Toss briefly.
- Scatter over the cheese, but don't stir. Wait for 30 seconds for the cheese to melt. Then toss well. This prevents the cheese from clumping. Loosen with the remaining pasta water, if required.
- Serve in warm bowls.
- Sprinkle a little additional freshly ground pepper or Aleppo pepper flakes, if you choose.
- Cacio e Pepe must be served warm and enjoyed immediately.