One of the most distinctive recipes that you will find in any Rome restaurant! The authentic Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe recipe has just three ingredients: pecorino cheese and black pepper (“cacio” and “pepe”) and pasta. The trick to achieving its unmatched flavor and creamy sauce? Quality ingredients and few simple cooking tricks.
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In Italian? Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe Ricetta Originale
About Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe
While it’s common to find the addition of heavy cream or another type of fat added to Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe made abroad, this is considered a big no-no in Italy. The addition of cream (an emulsifier) makes it easier for the cheese to melt, which is why some choose to add it.
However, the authentic creamy sauce in this Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe recipe gets its texture from starchy pasta water that is not too hot mixed with finely grated pecorino cheese. By cooking the pasta in less water than normal, the pasta water becomes starchy and can then be used to thicken the cheese sauce.
How do I avoid clumpy sauce?
Though simple to make, many beginners end up with cheese sauce that contains unappetizing clumps. Since pecorino cheese coagulates at 140° F (60° C), adding water hotter than this to the cheese will usually produce a stringy, gummy sauce.
In this recipe, we avoid this error in two ways: adding the right quantity of pasta water at the right temperature (less than 140° F /60° C) to the pecorino cheese. Then, we create a paste with the pecorino cheese and mix that into the pasta after it is cooked. You’ll have perfect Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe every time!
Can I use pre-grated cheese/ pre-ground pepper?
Sure! However, we assure you that the best flavor is always achieved by freshly grating or grinding your ingredients.
How to Make Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe: Tips
Use quality ingredients. Grate and grind fresh.
Use quality aged Pecorino Romano and freshly ground black pepper. With just two ingredients in this sauce, make sure those ingredients are bringing maximum flavor!
Use a food processor to grate the cheese!
Save time by using a food processor to finely grate the cheese.
Water amount and temperature matters!
To avoid clump cheese sauce, pay special attention to the quantity and temperature of the water used in each step.
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Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe Recipe
- Large Pot
- Large Skillet
- 11 oz spaghetti dry is fine
- 1 ½ tbsp black pepper freshly ground at a medium coarse setting
- 7 oz pecorino romano cheese finely grated; use semi-hard if you can find it
- 6 ¾ cups water for cooking the pasta
- coarse salt to taste
- Freshly grate the pecorino with the finest setting available. You may use a food processor to do this quickly. Set aside.7 oz pecorino romano cheese
- Freshly grind the black pepper (1 ½ Tbs) using a medium-coarse setting. You can use a mortar and pestle if you prefer.1 ½ tbsp black pepper
Toast the Black Pepper
- Toast pepper in a large skillet over very low heat just until fragrant. Then, remove pan from the heat.
- We recommend adding the pepper to a cold skillet, then turning the heat on low. Do not over toast! We don’t want to create pepper gas 🙂
Cook the Pasta
- In a medium-large pot, bring 6 ¾ cups of water to boil.6 ¾ cups water, coarse salt
- Start cooking the pasta in this pot of water for just half of the cook-time indicated on the package for ‘al dente’ pasta—about 5 minutes.11 oz spaghetti
Simmer the Pepper
- While pasta is cooking, add 2-3 ladles of the pasta water to the pan with the black pepper.
- Return the pan to the heat, and simmer the black pepper in the water for 2 minutes.
Finish the Pasta
- When the pasta is halfway through the cook time, transfer the pasta to the pan with the pepper-infused water.
- Add another ladle of hot pasta water to the pan—just enough to keep the pasta cooking. Finish cooking the pasta until it is al dente. In the meantime…
Make the Pecorino Sauce
- In a bowl, add ½ cup (100 ml) of the hot pasta water to a cup or bowl. Let the water cool a minute or two, or until it has reached a temperature of about 140° F (60° C). Don't have a thermometer? See Notes…
- Add this pasta water to the pecorino cheese. Mix thoroughly until you’ve achieved a smooth, thick paste— similar in appearance to a smooth ricotta cheese.
Add the Cheese Sauce
- Remove the skillet with the cooked pasta from the heat. Drain any excess water so only a tablespoon or two of liquid remains in the pan.
- Add the pecorino paste to the pasta. Stir quickly with a pair of tongs until the paste is distributed throughout the pasta and has created a thick, creamy sauce (much like a bechamel). If the pasta seems a bit too watery, remember it will become denser after plating. Serve immediately!