Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe Recipe

One of the most distinctive recipes that you will find in any Rome restaurant! The traditional 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

The Traditional Cacio e Pepe Recipe!

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. The cream is both unnecessary and unwanted as it changes the flavor of the dish.

The authentic creamy sauce in this traditional Cacio e Pepe recipe gets its texture from only from the starchy pasta water and finely grated pecorino cheese. By cooking the pasta in less water than normal, the pasta water becomes extra starchy and can then be used to thicken the cheese sauce.

You’ll notice that the traditional Cacio e Pepe Sauce is a bit tan in color rather than pure white. This is because the proper amount of black pepper (a lot!) has been added to the dish and also because only pecorino paste (not cream) is used to create the sauce. The addition of heavy cream combined with a paltry amount of black pepper results in many Cacio e Pepe dishes appearing very white—a sure sign the dish hasn’t been made the Italian way.

A super creamy Cacio e Pepe—no cream or butter needed!

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 to the pecorino cheese—at the right temperature (less than 140° F /60° C).
  • Then we create a paste with the pecorino cheese and mix that into the pasta after it is cooked (off the heat). You’ll have perfect Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe every time!
Adding the right quantity of water at the right temperature prevents clumping.
Make a paste—not a sauce. Then, add that to the finished pasta (off the heat).

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.

Use a mortar and pestle or pepper grinder to freshly grind the black pepper.

How to Make Traditional Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe: Summary

Use quality ingredients. Grate and grind fresh.

Use quality 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.

Our Pasta Cookbook!

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Discover More Cheesy Italian Food Recipes


Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe Recipe

One of the most distinctive recipes that you will find in any Rome restaurant. The traditional Cacio e Pepe has just three ingredients: pecorino cheese and black pepper ("cacio" and “pepe") and pasta. The trick to achieving its unmatched flavor? Quality ingredients and few simple cooking tricks.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Diet Vegetarian
Keyword cheesy, pasta
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 485kcal


  • 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


Prepare Ingredients

  • 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. 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. 
    6 ¾ cups water, coarse salt, 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 and Buon appetito!



We’ll say it again: Always use freshly ground black pepper in this dish to maximize the pepper flavor. Use a mortar and pestle to get a mix of fine and medium pepper grains, or use a medium-coarse setting on a pepper grinder.
Don’t have a kitchen thermometer?
When making the pecorino cream paste for the sauce, let the hot pasta water sit for about 30 seconds before adding it to the cheese. Then, slowly drizzle it into the cheese, mixing continuously. 
We highly recommend just investing in a thermometer. They are cheap and will make otherwise tricky recipes very easy! However, the drizzle method will work in a pinch.
Why do I need to measure my pasta water?
By using less water to cook the pasta, we create a pasta richer in starch (from the cooking pasta). This starch allows us to create a creamy sauce— without adding heavy cream or another emulsifier to bind with the cheese.
The rule of thumb? Use just less than 2 cups (500 ml) of water for every serving of pasta to get the pasta water starchy enough for use in the next steps. When making pasta for four, that is 6 3/4 cups (1600 ml) of water.


Sodium: 620mg | Calcium: 563mg | Vitamin A: 214IU | Sugar: 2g | Fiber: 3g | Potassium: 236mg | Cholesterol: 52mg | Calories: 485kcal | Saturated Fat: 9g | Fat: 15g | Protein: 26g | Carbohydrates: 61g | Iron: 2mg

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11 thoughts on “Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe Recipe”

  1. Thank you for this. After several failed attempts I tried this method. It was perfect, the process is foolproof. The sauce is so creamy with no clumps.


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