Last updated on October 29, 2023

Pasta cacio e pepe 🍝🧀 Original Italian recipe from Rome

Gianni from All Italian - Author
Gianni from All Italian

A pasta dish from the tradition of Central Italy, made with three ingredients: pasta, black pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese. If you do it right, it tastes great. We are Italians and we share the original recipe

A short clip of our spaghetti cacio e pepe recipe. Below we explain all steps in detail

Cacio e pepe is one of the typical pasta sauces from Latium and Rome, just like Carbonara and Amatriciana, which has become particularly popular also abroad in recent years.

In 2018, cacio e pepe was also discovered (or rediscovered) by the NY Times, who writes:

«It is among the most basic, simplest pastas there is, and suddenly trendy to boot. Why? Because when made right, it is incredible».

We at All Italian agree. And that «When made it right» is very important to understand the essence of the cacio e pepe sauce.

Because if you make cacio e pepe with the wrong cheese or procedure, the pasta dish will be a bit disappointing. But with the right ingredients and the right method of preparation, as the NY Times puts it, it is incredible.

Pasta Cacio e pepe pasta made in a cheese wheel
Cacio e pepe pasta made in a cheese wheel. Yes, it is an entertainment for tourists. We don't make it like that at home 🙂 Foto: Reddit

On this page we make the Italian recipe for spaghetti cacio e pepe, step by step.

Learning Italian 🇮🇹

How do you translate «cacio e pepe»?
In Italian 🔊 Cacio e pepe means «cheese and pepper».

Cacio is the generic name of cheese made with milk, rennet, salt and aged in the classic round shape.

The word cacio comes from the Latin casĕu: probably related to the English cheese.

An Italian expression you may be familiar with is: 🔊 Come il cacio sui maccheroni, literally «like cheese on macaroni», to indicate a particularly suitable combination. For example:

A good coffee after a meal is «come il cacio sui maccheroni».

The Italian words we use in this page:

🔊 Cacio Cheese
🔊 Formaggio Cheese
🔊 Pepe nero Black pepper

Cacio e pepe pasta 🍝 Recept zoals ze het in Rome maken

(18) reviews

  • 👩‍🍳 Easy
  • 30 min preparation
  • 🤗 Guaranteed result

Pasta Cacio e pepe 🍝 Traditional Italian recipe from Rome
The Cacio e pepe that we prepare in this recipe

Cacio e pepe pasta is made with only 3 ingredients; despite this, many consider it a difficult recipe.

The first advice is of course about the quality of the ingredients; while the most difficult preparation step is to obtain a smooth cheese sauce without lumps.

To make the creamy sauce (🔊 cremina, as we say in Italy), we pour a little boiling water over the finely grated Pecorino.

This step can be done in two ways:

  • Make the sauce separately and, when the pasta is ready, pour it over the pasta

  • Make the sauce along with the pasta in the last minutes of cooking

With both you get an excellent cacio e pepe.

In Italy, there are endless discussions about how to make a perfectly smooth and lump-free sauce.

👉 If you're a little geek about cooking, we recommend the cacio & pepe scientific recipe, made by journalist and Italian Dario Bressanini.

Bressanini explains the details about the water temperature and the ripening of the cheese for the cacio e pepe sauce.

He makes the pasta sauce separately, in a bowl, then pours it over the drained pasta and adds pepper.

Cacio & pepe like in the taverns of Rome

Instead, we propose the method used in Rome: we mix pasta and sauce briefly, like a risotto, and add a little pasta water.

This way sauce and pasta combine well and the dish is tastier.

To melt the cheese we use pasta water, which contains starch and allows the Pecorino to melt perfectly.

And to get a starchy pasta water we have a trick: we use less water than usual - and this way we also speed up cooking and save energy. A win-win.


Ingrediënten om cacio-pepe te maken




Ingredient image Ingredient name Cups Grams Ounces
spaghetti Spaghetti 11.29 oz 320 g
cheese-pecorino Pecorino Romano cheese 4.23 oz 120 g
pepper-black Black Pepper 2 teaspoons

Cacio e pepe is known for being a dish with a particularly intense flavour; ideally you have already tasted it in Italy, maybe in Rome, before making it yourself: so you are already familiar with the original taste.

Otherwise it's hard to judge the quality of the dish you get. If it's not good, you can't be sure whether it's because of the preparation or the quality of the ingredients.

Cheese in particular is the most important ingredient and must be of good quality. The choice of the cheese is very important for the success of the cacio e pepe.


Cacio e pepe sauce was born in Latium, in central Italy; the cacio of the recipe is the classic cheese original of those areas, the Pecorino Romano.

Pecorino is ideal for this recipe because it melts easily with the starch of pasta water.

To obtain a perfectly smooth cacio e pepe without lumps, it is preferable to use a not too seasoned Pecorino. A cheese aged for a long time contains less water and, used in this recipe, produces more lumps.

That said, in Italy many make cacio e pepe also with other aged cheeses, such as Parmigiano Reggiano; even though Pecorino is the ingredient of the original recipe.

👉 Our advice is to use a cheese that you really like. When the dish is ready, the pasta will have a very distinct taste. If the cheese isn't very good, so is the cacio e pepe.

We also advise against the use of ready-made grated cheese.


Cacio e pepe is made with black pepper: not green pepper, not the red one, not flavoured pepper.
For this recipe we use freshly ground pepper, which is more aromatic.


A common mistake when making cacio e pepe is is adding too much salt. Pecorino cheese already contains a lot of salt, so if you salt the pasta water normally, the dish will be too salty.

To soften the salty taste, we therefore recommend to add less salt to the pasta water.

When cooking pasta, the rule in Italy is 10 g of salt (0.5 US tablespoons) for every 1 liter of water (about 1 quart).
For cacio e pepe you can use 8 g (0.4 US tablespoons, 0.29 oz), unless you like salt very much.

Pasta cacio e pepe served with too much salt has always been a classic of the "best" Roman taverns: a savory pasta makes customers order more drinks. 😀

Pasta water

In the recipe to cook pasta al dente, we recommend using the proportions of 1 L of water (1 quart) for each 100 g pasta (3.5 oz).

To make cacio e pepe pasta we need water that is rich in starch.

Add less water than usual, for example 0.6 L (about 0.6 quarts) per 100 g of pasta (3.5 oz).

👉 Since we use less water than usual, don't forget to stir the pasta often to prevent it from sticking.

Tools you need for cacio e pepe

  • A large cooking pot

    We always use a large pot to cook pasta; even if in the "cacio e pepe" we use less water than usual, to release more starch from the pasta - starch necessary for the sauce.

  • A pan

    We mix the pasta with the sauce in a pan, while it is on the stove over very low heat, like a risotto: it is the way to get extra creamy pasta dishes.

  • A spaghetti spoon

    Without a spaghetti spoon, it is difficult to transfer the pasta from the cooking pot to the pan.


  1. Heat the water

    The first thing to do is fill a cooking pot with cold water and warm it over medium heat.

    As we wrote, for the cacio e pepe we use less pasta water than usual; the pot should still be big enough for long pasta like spaghetti.

    Heat the water
    Cover the pan with the lid to boil the water faster

  2. Prepare the cacio e pepe sauce

    While the water is heating, grind the black peppercorns and grate the cheese finely.

    • Ideally, the pepper is crushed into small flakes and not completely pulverized. We use half a teaspoon of black pepper per serving.

    • Grate the cheese into a bowl and set aside. Most of it is for the sauce; save some to sprinkle over the course before serving.

  3. Put the pasta in the boiling water

    When the water boils, add the coarse salt (again fewer than usual, because Pecorino is already very salty) and put the pasta into the cooking pot (🔊 butta la pasta in Italian).

  4. Roast the pepper

    After adding the spaghetti, roast the pepper in a pan over medium heat.

    The pan should be large enough to contain the pasta we will add in the next step.
    Roast the pepper for a minute and add a little pasta water.

    Roast the pepper

  5. Put the spaghetti in the pan

    When the pasta is halfway done (after 4 or 5 minutes of cooking), turn off the heat in the cooking pot and transfer the pasta to the pan where the pepper is roasting.

    You can use spaghetti spoon for this or a a skimmer if you use short pasta.

    Leave the pasta water in the cooking pot: you will need it for the next steps.

    Continue cooking the pasta in the pan, with a little pasta water. When the water has almost evaporated, add a tablespoon of pasta water.

    Stir regularly to prevent the spaghetti from sticking.

    Put the spaghetti in the pan

  6. Add the cheese and mix thoroughly

    Pecorino cheese has the property of melting perfectly with the starch of pasta water: however, it is necessary to use only a little water and to mix well.

    When the pasta is almost ready, one minute before it is al dente, reduce the heat to very low and add the Pecorino. At this point there should be pasta water in the pan, but very little.

    Now mix quickly for a minute: cheese and pasta water create the typical creamy sauce of cacio & pepe.

  7. To serve

    Is the pasta al dente and the sauce well mixed? Turn off the heat and put the pasta on the plates.
    Before serving, you can decorate the dishes with a pinch of pepper and grated Pecorino.

Your pasta cacio e pepe is ready. Buon appetito! 🍝

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe made according to the Italian recipe
Our spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

Did you like it? Rate this recipe

In the restaurant in Italy, when you finish eating, the waiter will ask: 🔊 andava tutto bene? (was everything fine?)

Recipe rating Italian translation
🔊Abbastanza buono
🔊Non molto buono
🔊Non buono
Placeholder image

The type of pasta for the cacio e pepe sauce

Traditionally, cacio e pepe is made with long pasta: dry, fresh or with egg.

The most common types of pasta we make with cacio e pepe are:

  • dry pasta such as spaghetti and bucatini

  • tagliolini, which sometimes you can find fresh in the grocery store

  • tonnarelli, also known as maccheroni alla chitarra: spaghetti with a square section which De Cecco exports in the dry version with eggs.

Tonnarelli De Cecco -
Tonnarelli is a type of pasta that looks like spaghetti, but with a square section. They are also called spaghetti alla chitarra, typical in central Italy.

Like the other pasta sauces from Roman cuisine, cacio e pepe is also prepared with large pasta such as tortiglioni and rigatoni.

The pasta that, according to the Italians, does not suit cacio e pepe, is short pasta: like the macaroni as they are known outside Italy.

This is indeed the opinion of the Italians. Abroad eating cacio e pepe with short pasta probably doesn't seem so strange, since in America mac & cheese is a classic.

To know more: cacio e pepe and the Roman cuisine

We called this page Original Italian Recipe, but as we often write: Italy is big and rich in culinary traditions, very different from each other.

In that sense, there is no original Italian cuisine; there are instead local customs and traditions.

A plate spaghetti cacio e pepe by Eataly
Spaghetti cacio e pepe by Eataly Foto: Erin

Cacio e pepe is part of the pasta recipes from Latium and from the nearby regions of Central Italy.

This pasta sauce shares with Gricia, Amatriciana, Carbonara the preparation method of the sauce based on a mix of cream of Pecorino Romano and cooking water.

The «Italian tradition» started when many of these recipes were collected in fundamental books such as «The science of cooking and the art of eating well» by Pellegrino Artusi.

A white pasta sauce made of black pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese

The Cacio e pepe pasta owes its fame to the fact that it is made with two simple ingredients: Pecorino Romano and black pepper.

Like many other recipes from Italy, it has humble origins: pepper and aged cheese are perishable food that could be preserved by the shepherds of Lazio and Abruzzo during the transhumance.

Transhumance (in Italian 🔊 transumanza) is the seasonal movement of shepherds and herds from mountain pastures to the plains.

Transhumance: the context where cacio e pepe was born
Transhumance in Italy Foto: Llorenzi

In Italy we call a pasta without tomato 🔊 pasta bianca, witte pasta; cacio e pepe is an excellent example of this, as is aglio, olio e peperoncino: simple and very tasty pasta dishes.

A plate spaghetti cacio e pepe
A plate spaghetti cacio e pepe Foto: Der Zahir

Follow our recipes

We frequently update our pages about Italian pasta with the recipes from the local and regional tradition of our Country.

Over All Italian

Hi! We are Italian expats and have been living abroad for years, currently in the Netherlands. Wherever we go, we carry part of our tradition with us. And we often notice that Italy, its heritage and its lifestyle, are very popular.
Now that we understand a little better the culture of the countries we live in, we want to offer an account with original content about our home country.
We are also writing this blog to practice English, so you will find our writing a little «creative» at times. Grazie mille!