This cacio e pepe recipe is going to be your new favorite meal for those nights when you’re looking for simple and super quick comfort food!
It takes about 10 minutes total and is made entirely in one pot, so there are fewer dishes to wash. The end result is rich, creamy, and delicious pasta that everyone will love!
I don’t know about you, but I hate waiting for a big pot of water to boil. It feels like it takes forever!
This quick cacio e pepe recipe is perfect for weeknight dinners when you want to get dinner on the table quickly without sacrificing flavor or quality. It only takes one pot and ten minutes of your time! No big pot of boiling water required.
The trick? Fresh pasta!
Because they are fresh, they basically only need to be reheated and cook in just two minutes. That means you just have to add them to your sauce at the very end of cooking time and let it sit until al dente.
It couldn’t be easier, and the delicious flavor will make you feel like you’ve been transported to an Italian vacation. What more can you ask for?
Ingredients needed to make cacio e pepe
At its core, cacio e pepe is basically a super creamy, cheesy, fancied-up version of mac and cheese. In fact “cacio e pepe” translates to “cheese and pepper.”
And you only need four ingredients to make it!
- Fresh Spaghetti or Linguine. Look for this near the produce section of your grocery store.
- Grated Pecorino-Romano Cheese. You can substitute Parmesan if you prefer.
- Butter. I always use unsalted butter, especially since the cheese is pretty salty. You can add salt to taste before serving.
- Freshly Cracked Black Pepper.
It sounds simple, and it is. But the cooking technique results in a butter-cheese sauce with freshly cracked pepper that’s absolutely irresistible. You’re going to love it!
How to make one pot cacio e pepe
Traditionally, cacio e pepe is made by boiling spaghetti, then adding it, along with some of the pasta water, to your sauce.
I adapted this recipe so the pasta cooks right in the sauce, soaking up even more of that delicious flavor. It’s so easy!
You’ll start by making what’s called buerre monte, an emulsified butter sauce that can cook without breaking down and separating. It sounds super fancy, but to make it all you need to do is whisk some water into melted butter.
Start by melting your butter in a large, wide saute pan.
Next, add plenty of black pepper and let it toast for a few seconds to intensify its flavor.
Whisk in the water and bring the sauce to a rapid simmer. Since you’re using a shallow pan, this won’t take very long at all.
Now, add the pasta and stir it around. Once the pasta softens, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese.
That’s all there is to it! It’s so easy, and so delicious.
Tips for making cacio e pepe
- Pecorino-Romano is the traditional cheese used in this dish although Parmesan is a good substitute.
- Grating your cheese at home will always provide a better flavor and texture to your cheese sauce, refrigerated grated cheese is great for convenience. Just stay away from shelf-stable versions, which have anti-caking agents and stabalizers than impact it’s ability to melt.
- Freshly cracked pepper is preferred over preground pepper, since ground pepper has been exposed to oxygen, thereby reducing the flavor. Freshly cracked pepper will always provide a much richer flavor profile in this pasta dish! Blooming the pepper in the melted butter will intensify its flavor and help infuse the flavor into the sauce.
Cacio e pepe is super rich, so I love serving it with a simple arugula salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. The acidity in the vinaigrette helps cleanse your palate between bites of cheesy pasta.
You could also serve this with a side of your favorite roast vegetables.
If you’re looking for added protein, consider combining this pasta dish with crumbled bacon, grilled shrimp, or salmon.
The one-pot method I use for this recipe won’t work with dried pasta. You do have other options, but it will take longer and you’ll need to boil water.
Simply boil your pasta in a large pot of salted water according to the package directions. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water before draining the pot.
Follow the instructions for the sauce, using one cup of the starchy pasta water instead of regular water. Add the cooked pasta and cheese, and stir it around until everything is creamy. Add additional pasta water as needed to loosen up the sauce.
This pasta is definitely best served right away, because the sauce will thicken up as it sits and loses some of its creaminess.
If you do have leftovers, they’ll keep in the refrigerator for about 4 days. I recommend adding a tablespoon or two of water or milk before reheating to add back some of the moisture that it loses when it sits.
10-Minute Cacio e Pepe
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 cup water
- 9 ounces fresh spaghetti or linguine
- 1 cup grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the pepper and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant.
- Whisk in the water.
- Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes or until softened.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese until melted.
- Top with additional cheese and black pepper, if desired.