Cacio e pepe served in Milan

Cacio e pepe is Italian for cheese and pepper, a traditionally Roman dish that historians think is the oldest pasta recipe in Italy. This cheesy, peppery, simple comfort dish has recently become popularized around the world. It’s easy to see why, cacio e pepe is simple to make, vegetarian, and presents like an upscaled-yet-simplified mac and cheese. Cacio e pepe is simple enough to prepare that you could even cook it while traveling - a great way to save money on your next adventure. 

Because this dish consists of just a few pantry and kitchen staples, you’ll want to use high quality ingredients for the best results. To choose the highest quality pasta for this dish, look for dried pasta that is very light colored, almost white. Yellow-colored dried pasta is usually less flavorful and lower quality, regardless of the price point. Similarly, opt for parmesan and pecorino romano from the refrigerated section of the grocery store, as opposed to the dry, shelf-stable versions.

The history of cacio e pepe is hotly debated. So much so, that when the New York Times posted a cacio e pepe recipe, the comments section was filled with advice about how to make a more authentic version of the dish. One commenter saw the humor in the situation and said:

Just wanted to say that everyone arguing about the authenticity of this recipe or any variation thereof is doing the most authentically Roman thing you can do. - NYT commenter 

So, enjoy this recipe for cacio e pepe. Or, modify it! The choice is yours.


  • 1 package long pasta
  • 1 cup finely-grated pecorino romano, plus a little extra
  • 1 cup finely-grated parmesan 
  • 1 tbsp freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp butter (optional)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Fresh, high-quality olive oil for drizzling 


  1. 1
    Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain the pasta, reserving 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  2. 2
    While the pasta is cooking, combine the cheeses, pepper, salt, and butter (if using) in a large bowl. Going a teaspoon at a time, add cold water and mix until the cheese forms a thick paste. Spread the pasta around the bottom ⅓ of the bowl. 
  3. 3
    Add the cooked (and still hot) pasta to the bowl, and toss quickly. As you toss the pasta, add some of the hot water, working 1 tablespoon at a time, until the pasta is fully coated in the sauce. You may not need to use all of the reserve pasta water. 
  4. 4
    Once the sauce has incorporated, serve immediately with a few cracks of fresh pepper, some grated pecorino romano, and a small drizzle of olive oil.

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Amber Haggerty

Author - Amber Haggerty

Amber Haggerty runs Amber Everywhere, a site dedicated to encouraging others to travel. The mission of Amber Everywhere is to help people feel the sort of belonging, purpose, empathy, and expansiveness that travel can offer, especially if approached with the right mindset. Amber is originally from Colorado, but now she now lives in Europe and writes about her experiences traveling and living abroad.

Last Updated 2 December 2022


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