I’ve been making Cacio e Pepe Spaghetti for years and didn’t know it. This incredibly simple pasta dish, which literally means “cheese and pepper spaghetti”, has received a lot of foodie attention recently for some reason.
Classically made with Pecorino Romano (Romano cheese from sheep’s milk) and fresh coarse-ground black pepper, it can also be made with milder Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan). Pecorino Romano is a bit sharper and saltier than Parmesan. No cream-based sauce or garlic here, just olive oil, butter, cheese, pepper, and pasta…spaghetti is preferred, but any long pasta will do…I like spaghetti or bucatini. Ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta…and no prep involved!
Here’s how to make it. Really, no salt is needed as the Romano (or Parmesan) and salted pasta water provide enough salty flavor on their own. Pair with a small chopped or Caesar salad and a slice of sourdough garlic bread and you’ve got an easy, elegantly simple dinner that won’t leave you with that “stuffed” feeling. This recipes serves 2-3 people.
- 6 ounces of spaghetti or any long pasta such as bucatini or linguine
- Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- About 1/2 tbsp fresh coarse ground black pepper
- 3/4 cups of grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmigiano Reggiano) cheese plus more for serving
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add about 1-2 tbsp Kosher salt. Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions. Important: Save about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid before draining.
- Heat the olive oil and unsalted butter in a medium skillet over medium heat until foam from the butter subsides. Don’t let it brown.
- Add the coarse ground pepper and cook, stirring, about 1 minute.
- Add the cooked pasta and 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid, tossing to coat. Sprinkle the Romano on top and continue to cook, tossing, until the cheese is melted and the pasta is well coated, about 2 minutes. Add more liquid if necessary to keep it all moist.
- Taste. Season with salt if needed. Divide among 2-3 bowls, twirling and nesting the pasta and serve immediately with additional cheese.