Home - Dinner - Pasta - Cacio e Pepe Pasta with Pecorino Romano

Cacio e Pepe Pasta with Pecorino Romano

5 from 1 community review

Did you know you can easily save your favorite recipes? Create an account or log in to get started.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

If you’ve ever tried preparing homemade cacio e pepe and found it challenging, let me show you some of my tricks! I make a creamy-textured, no-clump sauce that tastes oh-so-savory, pleasantly salty, and not too spicy. Paired with al dente bucatini (or other long pasta), this is one of those pantry pasta recipes you’ll want in your back pocket.

Cacio e pepe bucatini pasta in a serving bowl, with a fork resting on the side.

Authentic cacio e pepe (say “ka-chee-o-peh-pay”) means cheese and pepper in Italian. What could be simpler? Like a classic fettuccine alfredo recipe, it handful of ingredients including ground black pepper, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and dried pasta come together to make something iconic.

This Cacio e Pepe will Knock your socks off

  • Smoother sauce: A few simple tricks will help you overcome clumps of gluey cheese in your cacio e pepe.
  • Learn why the temperature and texture of the cheese are important details.
  • Saucy secret: The pasta cooking water — it binds with the fat (butter and cheese) to make an unctuous sauce. Cooking the pasta in a smaller than usual amount of water ups the starch.
  • Last but not least, quickly tossing drained off the heat is key to lusciously coated pasta, as in a classic pasta carbonara.
  • Ready to dig in? Make cacio e pepe for dinner now!

Cacio e pepe ingredients

Ingredients for a cacio e pepe recipe arranged on a surface, showing dried pasta, peppercorns, ground black pepper, sliced butter, and a chunk of pecorino Romano cheese.
  • Pecorino Romano cheese: This aged Italian sheep’s milk cheese is widely available in the cheese section of most grocery stores (try to avoid “Romano” cheese produced in the U.S. Because it’s made with cow’s milk, it’s much milder in flavor). Pecorino Romano has a sharp, pungent smell and is saltier than Parmesan. If you don’t mind breaking the rules, you can use a 1/2-and-1/2 mixture of Pecorino Romano and Parmesan to make the sauce.
  • Black pepper: Grind black peppercorns in a peppermill or spice grinder (please, don’t use pre-ground pepper, which is probably stale and flavorless). My go-to black peppercorns are Tellicherry — they’re plump, aromatic, and don’t pack intense heat.
  • Butter: Adding butter to cacio e pepe is controversial. People who are sticklers about authentic Roman cuisine NEVER add butter (or cream, for that matter) to the dish. But honestly, I think the taste of butter with the cheese and black pepper is over-the-top delicious. Like salt and pepper potato chips, it’s an unbeatable combination.
  • Dried pasta: Thick, long pasta cuts like spaghetti or bucatini are your best bet to pair with cacio e pepe sauce. They’re chewy and so slurpable! Tonnarelli or chiatarra pasta are traditionally for cacio e pepe, but harder to find in grocery stores. For the best sauce, choose pasta extruded through bronze dies — it has a rough, sandpaper-like surface and releases more starch than less expensive mass-market pasta. For those reasons, sauce clings beautifully to each strand.

How to make it

  • Fun fact: The reason cacio e pepe sauce tends to clump is because of the cheese itself: Pecorino Romano is an aged cheese with a dry, crumbly texture. It has a higher melting point than softer cheeses with that have more moisture content, causing the fat and casein to separate over high heat.

More tips:

  • Scoop out the pasta water halfway through cooking to allow it to cool for a few minutes — mixing the cheese with boiling water can cause it to seize and clump.
  • I slightly undercook the pasta because it finishes cooking in the skillet. Tossing it rapidly in the pan encourages more starch to release, which helps to thicken the sauce.
  • Feeling creative? Dress up your cacio e pepe pasta with chopped parsley, slow-roasted tomatoes, or a handful of arugula.
Cacio e pepe pasta in a serving bowl, with a fork resting on the side.

Cacio e Pepe Pasta with Pecorino Romano

Karen Tedesco
If you've ever tried preparing homemade cacio e pepe and found it challenging, let me show you some of my tricks! I make a creamy-textured, no-clump sauce that tastes oh-so savory, pleasantly salty, and not too peppery. Paired with al dente bucatini (or other long pasta), this is one of those pantry pasta recipes you'll want in your back pocket.
Print Pin
5 from 1 community review
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Pasta
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 servings


  • 5 tablespoons (70 g) butter, salted or unsalted
  • 2 teaspoons (5 g) coarsely ground black pepper, refer to the photo above for an example
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 ounces (250 g) dried pasta, such as bucatini or spaghetti, preferably bronze-cut
  • 2 cups (75 g) (lightly packed) very finely grated pecorino Romano cheese, grated with a rasp grater or the smallest holes on a box grater; at room temperature


  • Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a pot. Add 1-2 tablespoons kosher salt.
  • Cook the pasta until it's a few minutes shy of al dente, about 8-10 minutes depending on the cut. Scoop out 1½ cups of the starchy water about halfway through cooking, allowing it to cool to warm for a few minutes.
  • Meanwhile, melt the butter in the wide (10-12-inch) skillet over medium heat. Add 1½ teaspoons of the pepper, 1½ cups of the cheese and 1 cup of the pasta water. Stir the sauce frequently until the cheese melts and the sauce smooths out. Remove the pan from the heat.
  • Drain the pasta in a colander. Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss it with tongs, quickly and thoroughly, until the pasta is coated and the sauce thickens. Dribble in a little more of the reserved water, if needed.
  • Portion into bowls and serve immediately. Sprinkle each serving with some of the remaining pepper and cheese.

Karen’s Notes and Tips

  • This dish is rich and satisfying. Half a pound of dried pasta and the sauce will serve 2-4 people, depending on hunger level.
  • Cacio e pepe is best served immediately. Leftovers are tasty, but keep in mind that the sauce will be absorbed by the pasta as it cools.
  • Some markets sell pre-grated cheese that resembles a fine powder. This is a good (and convenient) option if you don’t want to grate it by hand.
  • Straight-from-the-fridge cheese won’t melt as smoothly, so I suggest bringing it to room temperature before cooking.


Calories: 421kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Sodium: 624mg | Potassium: 224mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 250IU | Calcium: 575mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition facts are calculated by third-party software. If you have specific dietary needs, please refer to your favorite calculator.

Did you make this recipe? Search @Familystylefood or tag #familystylefood on Pinterest
Recipe developer Karen Tedesco of the popular website Familystyle Food in her kitchen making a kale salad.

Hey, I’m Karen

Creator of Familystyle Food

I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about creating elevated dinners with everyday ingredients. Find simplified recipes made from scratch and enjoy incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.

5 from 1 vote

Leave a comment and star rating

Do you have a cooking question? Leave your comment below and let me know how I can help.

Did you love this recipe? Just click on the stars to leave a rating!

Recipe rating

Share your photo!Inspire others by uploading an image of your creation along with your review. The maximum upload file size: 512 MB. You can upload: image. Drop files here

You may want to read my commenting policy before joining the conversation.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    I love the way this pasta turned out. My son devoured it!