This cacio e pepe recipe is easy to make in about 30 minutes with just 4 simple ingredients. Feel free to double the recipe if you would like to use a full package of pasta!
- Boil the pasta water. Fill a large stockpot about halfway full of water (roughly 3 quarts) and bring it to a rolling boil. Generously season the water with fine 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. If you have an electric stove, you’ll want to remove the pan from the hot burner entirely.
- 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 to thin out the sauce, until the cheese is melted and forms a smooth and glossy sauce.
- Serve. Serve the pasta immediately, garnished with an extra twist of black pepper and/or extra Pecorino if desired. This pasta is definitely best served hot out of the pan, so please enjoy it right away!
Butter: Feel free to use less butter, if you prefer. Or you can also omit the butter entirely and just use extra starchy pasta water in its place, 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 always add extra as a garnish. If you are sensitive to black pepper, however, you may want to use less than the recipe suggests. Also please note that the 1 teaspoon measurement is for coarsely-ground black pepper. (So if you are using finely-ground pepper, you will need to use less.)
Tong 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 the water in a heat-safe bowl, then drain the rest of the pasta in a colander and transfer it to the sauté pan.
Recipe edit: This recipe was edited in 2022 to include 2 instead of 3 tablespoons of butter, and the instructions were updated and clarified as well.