Epic Cacio e Pepe Recipe
EPIC Cacio e Pepe Recipe (with a Secret Ingredient!)
Oh guys, do I have a winning recipe for you today!
We are making fresh and fabulous Cacio e Pepe. A simple silky pasta dish with loads of cheesy flavor.
If you’ve been wondering what to make your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day this year… Build your menu around this dish.
What Is Cacio e Pepe?
Cacio e Pepe is a Roman pasta dish with a light velvety dressing of molten cheese and cracked black pepper.
The name literally means cheese and pepper.
It’s a rather simple dish in flavor, but oh what a flavor it has!
This seemingly humble pasta recipe offers the comfort of the beloved childhood meal of “spaghetti with butter and parmesan cheese.” Yet it’s so much more than that.
Cacio e Pepe is decadent and nutty with the perfect contrast of al dente pasta texture and hot silky cheese.
What’s the Difference Between Cacio e Pepe and Alfredo?
When you look at our photos, you might be tempted to think Cacio e Pepe is just a lighter version of Fettucini Alfredo.
However, there are some pretty significant differences.
It should be stated that Cacio e Pepe is an authentic Italian recipe, while Alfredo Sauce is an Italian-American creation.
The “sauce” on Cacio e Pepe is made entirely by the starchy pasta liquid, a little butter, fresh cracked pepper, and cheese. The pasta is lightly kissed with sauce, so the pasta itself has the ability to shine.
However, Alfredo Sauce is usually made with whole milk/cream, butter and flour to create a roux, and cheese. The richness of the cream often mellows the flavor of the cheese, so it is not as intense as Cacio e Pepe.
Alfredo Sauce is much thicker, and is usually applied more liberally to the pasta. Overall, it’s a saucier dish with a milder flavor.
What Makes Our (Best) Cacio e Pepe Recipe Special?
There are a lot of Cacio e Pepe Recipes out there, and they are probably all pretty darn good. However, this is why we think you should try our method…
One-Pot Cacio e Pepe
This is not a gimmick to make you try this recipe… You really only need a single pan to make this dish. The sauce does not need to be prepared separately from the pasta.
Furthermore, you do not want to drain the pasta, because the starchy liquid adds to the overall texture of the sauce. Therefore we are using a one-pot method to cook the pasta to perfection!
Of course, all pasta dishes are better when made with fresh pasta. However, if you don’t have time to make fresh pasta, or access to buying it, I have found bucatini is a better choice for Cacio e Pepe than spaghetti.
Why? Bucatini is very similar to spaghetti, but each strand of pasta has a hole running through the middle. Therefore, when you bite down, it gives a little, and emulates the feel of biting into fresh-made pasta more than spaghetti.
Try it… You’ll see.
Boiled in Chicken Broth
That’s right! To infuse more flavor into the pasta prior to adding the cheese, our secret ingredient and cooking tip is to boil the pasta in chicken broth, rather than water. (Or vegetable broth for a vegetarian version.)
You’ll be amazed at how much better it tastes!
One more thing that makes a huge difference in the flavor of the Cacio e Pepe is to toast the freshly cracked pepper before mixing it into the pasta at the end.
Two Cheeses – Double The Flavor
Some Cacio e Pepe Recipes call for just parmesan cheese. However, the nuttiness and silkier texture of pecorino cheese takes this recipe to the next level of deliciousness.
Off The Block
It’s common to want to skip the step of grating your own cheese… But don’t do it! Freshly grated cheese has a much better flavor, texture, and melting ability than packaged grated cheese.
Authentic Cacio e Pepe Recipe Ingredients
- Cracked black pepper – Freshly cracked and toasted.
- Bucatini pasta – Fresh or dried.
- Chicken broth – Or vegetable broth for vegetarians.
- Butter – To create the silky sauce base.
- Parmesan cheese – Freshly grated off the block.
- Pecorino cheese – Freshly grated off the block. *If you are budget-minded and only want to buy one block of cheese, go with pecorino!
How To Make Cacio e Pepe
- Pick the Right Pot. Make sure the pot or pan you use is wide enough to account for the length of the pasta. The pasta should be able to fit flat on the bottom, so it is fully submerged in liquid.
- Toast the Pepper. Add the cracked pepper to the dry pot and toast the pepper for 1-2 minutes. Shake the pan to release the strong peppery aroma.
- Boil in Broth. Add the bucatini and chicken broth. Throw in a large pinch of salt. Make sure the pasta is fully submerged. Once boiling, stir the pasta vigorously, so it doesn’t stick together, then continue boiling until al dente.
- Grate the Cheese. Meanwhile, grate both cheeses. Do this last to keep them soft and fresh.
- Toss and Stir. Then add in the reserved cracked pepper and both cheese. Stir while the cheese melts. Serve immediately.
Get The Full (Printable) Best Cacio e Pepe Recipe Below
Easy Cacio e Pepe Recipe Variations
Just to be a stickler, if you start adding things to your Cacio e Pepe, it’s technically no longer Cacio e Pepe. But that doesn’t mean it won’t taste amazing!
Try this recipe with:
- Roasted garlic
- Spinach or kale
- Crushed red pepper
- Roasted red peppers
- Toasted nuts
- A dollop of basil pesto
- Grilled shrimp
- Minced anchovies
Cacio e Pepe Leftovers or Meal Prep?
Cacio e Pepe is BEST when freshly made and served immediately. Because the sauce is thin and lightly applied, the pasta absorbs the sauce over time and loses some of its appeal.
It is not the best make-ahead, meal prep, or freezer meal.
That doesn’t mean your leftovers will go to waste! Simply add another splash of chicken broth as you rewarm it, and the sauce on the noodles will loosen up a little.
More Comforting Pasta Dishes
- Holiday Fettucini Alfredo
- Best Ever Mac and Cheese
- Lobster Fra Diavolo
- Ricotta Baked Ziti with Sausage
- Classic Stuffed Shells and Cheese
- Cowboy Chili Lasagna
Epic Cacio e Pepe Recipe
- Set a large 6+ quart saucepot or sauté pan (with a lid) over medium heat. Make sure the pot/pan is wide enough to account for the length of the pasta. It should be able to fit flat on the bottom, so it is fully submerged in liquid. (Do not add these ingredients yet; just check for size.)
- Add the cracked pepper to the dry pot and toast the pepper for 1-2 minutes. Shake the pan to roll the pepper around. When it releases a strong peppery aroma, dump it out on a plate for later use.
- Add the bucatini and 5 cups chicken broth. Throw in a large pinch of salt. Make sure the pasta is fully submerged. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir the pasta vigorously, so it doesn't stick together, then continue boiling, uncovered, until al dente, usually 7-8 minutes. (Check your package instructions, so you don't overcook the pasta. It should just be slightly firm in the middle.)
- Meanwhile, grate the cheeses. Once the pasta reaches al dente, there should be just a little broth left in the pan. (about 1/4-1/2 inch liquid) Add the butter to the pasta, and stir well to coat.
- Then toss in the cracked pepper and both cheese. Stir while the cheeses melt. Then serve immediately with a sprinkling of extra cheese!
Making this recipe? Follow us on Instagram and tag @ASpicyPerspective so we can share what you’re cooking!