This cacio e pepe recipe is easy to make in about 30 minutes with just 4 simple ingredients.
- Boil the pasta water. Fill a large stockpot about halfway full of water (roughly 2 quarts) and bring it to a rolling boil. Generously season the water with sea salt (about 2 tablespoons).
- Bloom the pepper. Meanwhile, as the pasta water heats, melt the butter in a large sauté pan (preferably nonstick) over medium heat. Add the pepper and let it cook for 30 seconds, then turn off the heat.
- Cook the pasta. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is just barely al dente.
- Toss the pasta. Use tongs* to quickly transfer the pasta directly to the sauté pan with the melted butter and pepper. Add 1/3 cup of the starchy pasta water to the pan and toss the pasta briefly to combine. Add in half of the cheese and toss the pasta briefly to coat. Add in the remaining half of the cheese and continue tossing the pasta, adding in a few extra tablespoons of starchy pasta water if needed, until the cheese is melted and forms a thick and glossy sauce.
- Serve. Serve the pasta immediately, garnished with an extra twist of black pepper and/or extra Pecorino if desired.
Butter: Feel free to use less butter, if you prefer. Or you could also omit the butter and just use extra starchy pasta water, which is the traditional way to make cacio e pepe.
Black pepper: I like my cacio e pepe heavy on the “pepe” (black pepper) and often add a bit extra as a garnish. If you are sensitive to black pepper, however, I recommend starting with half as much. And please note that the 1 teaspoon measurement is for coarsely-ground black pepper. If you are using finely-ground pepper, I recommend using less.
Tongs alternatives: If using a shorter pasta shape (such as rigatoni), I recommend transferring the pasta with a spider strainer instead. Or if you do not own either, you can scoop out a few cups of the starchy pasta water and reserve it in a heat-safe bowl, then drain the rest of the pasta in a colander and transfer it to the sauté pan.