Spaghetti cacio e pepe is one of the tastiest, comforting and easiest dishes of Roman cuisine. Yet, for as simple as it is, getting this dish right can be hard, and at times even the best restaurants in Italy may end up serving you a cacio e pepe that is less than satisfactory.
I have had all sorts of bad spaghetti cacio e pepe – homemade, or at cheap trattorie. At times they were too dry; other times too salty. Sometimes they were made with egg noodles – which completely changed the flavor; others they were prepared with added butter or oil – which again changes the flavor.
One important thing to know is that there only is one real recipe to make spaghetti cacio e pepe; and it only calls for 3 ingredients: spaghetti, cacio (another way to say cheese in Italian) and pepe (black pepper). Anything else is a poor adaptation you really can do without.
Are you curious to discover how the real cacio e pepe is made, and want to try it at home? Just read on!
How To Make Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe
- 1 pounds (450 grams) of high quality spaghetti
- 2 cups (180 grams) of grated pecorino romano cheese
- Black pepper
- In a large pot, bring water to the boil, add salt and throw in the pasta.
- While the pasta cooks, toast the black pepper in a pan, and add a few spoons of cooking water taken from the pasta pot.
- Grate the pecorino cheese, leaving some aside for decoration.
- Add a few spoons of cooking water, which will be rich with the starch released from the pasta, and whisk it.
- Lift the spaghetti from the pot with tongs about one minute earlier than the suggested cooking time and throw it in the pan where you have toasted the pepper and added some of the water.
- Add the cheese and water mixture and, if necessary, a few more spoons of pasta cooking water.
- Cook for another minute until the pasta is cooked al dente and the sauce creamy.
- Decorate with some grated pecorino cheese and black pepper and serve.
Serve as soon as ready!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 275Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 6.3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3.3gCholesterol: 37mgSodium: 520mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 1.2gSugar: 1.2gProtein: 16g
Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe Q&A
What’s the best wine pairing?
Both red and white wine can be excellent pairing to a good spaghetti cacio e pepe.
If you are a fan of red, I recommend a light red such as a Rosso di Montalcino. If you prefer whites, opt for a Chardonnay.
I’m out of spaghetti: can I use another kind of pasta?
You can! In fact, this is the only change you are allowed to the recipe. Here we either use spaghetti or tonnarelli – but the latter may be hard to come across overseas. Preferably use another kind of long pasta such as linguine or bucatini. Just make sure not to use egg-noodles as they have a much stronger flavor and the final flavor would change too much.
Can I use any kind of cheese?
I have seen recipes suggesting to use parmigiano cheese, but that is simply poor advice. The only cheese you can use to prepare cacio e pepe is pecorino romano.
Can I add some butter or oil for a creamier texture?
Absolutely not – unless you want to get arrested by the Italian food police. The recipe only calls for spaghetti, black pepper and pecorino cheese. If you work the ingredients in the right way, the final texture will be perfectly creamy as is.
In fact, any recipe you see that adds any ingredient other than the 3 mentioned here is not original, and probably made by someone who’s never been to Rome.
What about cream?
Once again, no. The creamy texture of the sauce is a result of the masterful whisking of pecorino cheese with cooking water.
Can I put garlic in the sauce?
I know you guys love your garlic, but despite common misconception not all Italian recipes call for it. This is one of those where garlic would really be an unwelcome ingredient. In other words, do not add it.
Can I add vegetables?
Sure you can. But if you do, please don’t call this “spaghetti cacio e pepe” – just come up with another name. Sorry guys, we Italians aren’t too flexible when it comes to traditional Italian recipes.
Can I add chicken?
Sorry guys, but chicken never goes on pasta in Italy.
Can I serve it as a side dish?
We don’t have a habit of serving pasta as a side dish in Italy. It’s what we’d normally call a first course – “primo piatto” in Italian.
Check out my other recipes of Roman cuisine:
- The Best Food In Rome
- An Easy Recipe For Carciofi Alla Romana
- The Best Recipe For Supplì Al Telefono
- How To Make Saltimbocca Alla Romana
- How To Make Puntarelle Alla Romana
- How To Make Bucatini All’Amatriciana
- How To Make Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
- How To Make Pasta Alla Gricia