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An ultra creamy pasta without cream? It’s possible with this authentic Cacio e Pepe recipe! Just a few ingredients and you’re on your way to one of the easiest and most delicious pasta dishes ever!

a white plate with spaghetti pasta with cheese, black pepper and parsley. A fork twirls the pasta off to the side.
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Why I Love This Recipe

Cacio e Pepe is a simple, rustic “cheese and pepper” pasta. It’s incredibly creamy and can hold its own next to Alfredo any day of the week.

Its minimalist simplicity is what makes this dish so popular. It takes minutes to prepare, and serving with a copycat Olive Garden Salad and some garlic bread makes for a complete meal you can make from scratch, even on those busy weeknights.

It’s similar to the way we make our One Pot Mac and Cheese, but it’s even easier to make. It’s classy and elegant in its simplicity, making it a great date night or dinner party meal.


  • Pasta. I recommend spaghetti or bucatini, but any long, thin pasta will work.
  • Salt. Normally I don’t call attention to the salt in a recipe but in this case it’s important to the flavor, so make sure to follow the recipe.
  • Black Pepper. Another often forgotten about ingredient that is literally in the name of this dish, making it the star. Fresh cracked is best.
  • Butter. The base for the sauce, so use the real stuff, not margarine.
  • Cheese. Pecorino Romano is traditional and has a nutty, deliciously salty flavor.
  • Water. Pasta water to be exact. You are going to be saving a good amount of the starchy, salted water to make the sauce.

How To Make Cacio e Pepe

  1. Boil water with a generous amount of salt. Before draining, scoop out and save a ladleful of the past cooking water. Drain the pasta into a colander and set aside.
  2. Melt butter in the pot, and as it begins to melt add hot pasta, black pepper, and some of the reserved pasta water.
  3. Start tossing in some of the cheese. Work quickly so it will melt properly and to avoid clumps. As you toss it together, the cheese will melt and with the water will create a sauce.
  4. Serve with extra Parmesan, fresh minced parsley, and fresh cracked black pepper garnish.
A pot filled with pasta and parmesan cheese.
An overhead image of a black skillet with spaghetti noodles and parsley


This pasta dish is at its best when enjoyed immediately. However it is possible to refrigerate or even freeze and reheat with good results.

Storing leftovers: Place cooled pasta in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3-4 days. The sauce will thicken. Reheat in a skillet on the stove over medium heat. Add a splash of water to help loosen up the sauce.

Freezing: I do not recommend freezing as the texture of the pasta and sauce will change drastically when thawed.

Expert Tips to Avoid Clumping

The most important component of this dish is speed. If the pasta cools too quickly, the cheese won’t melt and will begin to clump instead. There are a couple of tricks to help this method work though.

  • Use a wide pan for cooking, like a skillet with high sides. This will concentrate the starch in the pasta water.
  • Add some of the pasta water to the cheese in a separate bowl for a few minutes before the pasta is finished cooking. Whisk together, then add to the finished pasta, stirring like crazy to get it all mixed together well.
An overhead image of a white plate with cacio e pepe (spaghetti), a small bowl of parmesan cheese, and parsley on a gray background.

Want More Pasta?

If you love pasta as much as we do, you’ve got to try some of our other favorites:

A bowl of pasta

Cacio e Pepe Recipe

Cacio e Pepe is a quick and simple "cheese and pepper pasta" that takes less than 20 minutes and 6 ingredients to make any night of the week.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 servings


  • 1 pound bucatini or spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups Pecorino Romano cheese freshly and finely grated, about 4-5 ounces
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper or more to taste


  • Boil 4 quarts of water in a large pot. Once boiling, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta. Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Towards the end, reserve a cup of pasta water and set it aside.
  • Drain the pasta using a large colander and set it aside. Place the pot back on the stove but keep the heat turned off. Add butter and as it starts to melt, add the pasta, cheese, black pepper and ½ cup of the pasta water. Working quickly to avoid clumping, toss the pasta with tongs to coat and melt the cheese. Add more pasta water as desired to form your sauce.
  • Serve immediately, garnished with more cheese and black pepper. Add fresh minced parsley for color, if desired.


Calories: 645kcalCarbohydrates: 87gProtein: 27gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 2202mgPotassium: 305mgFiber: 4gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 418IUCalcium: 432mgIron: 2mg
Keyword cacio e pepe

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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