Home Dinner Easy Cacio e Pepe Recipe (Only 4-Ingredients)

Easy Cacio e Pepe Recipe (Only 4-Ingredients)

Cacio e pepe turns pasta, cheese, and pepper into an irresistible family dinner in a flash. 

This super simple 4-ingredient recipe is hearty, cheesy, and very aromatic.

It’s simple, elegant, and one of my go-to pasta recipes for a quick weeknight dinner.

A serving of Caio E Pepe on a white plate garnished with shredded cheese.
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What Is Cacio e Pepe?

Cacio e pepe translates to “cheese and pepper” in Italian. 

This popular Roman pasta dish consists of 3 core ingredients. So, as the name suggests, you’ll need pasta, cheese, and pepper. 

Specifically, it calls for spaghetti tossed in Pecorino Romano and freshly cracked black pepper. 

The starchy pasta water emulsifies and turns into a sauce that coats the noodles beautifully.

As for the fourth ingredient, I like to add a pat of butter for extra richness. But you can skip that if you want yours authentic.

Cacio E Pepe pasta cooked in a pan with black pepper.


Believe it or not, this super trendy dish comes together with just a handful of ingredients. And chances are, you have them all on hand already.

You’ll find the full list at the bottom of the post. Until then, let’s go over the basics:

  • Spaghetti. You can use bucatini, regular spaghetti, tonnarelli, or any other long pasta noodles you like. Just don’t use penne or elbow pasta. Save those for your mac and cheese.
  • Hard Cheese. Pecorino Romano is traditional, but Parmesan is a good alternative.
  • Black Pepper. Freshly cracked black pepper is a must for this recipe.
  • Butter. Optional but oh-so-rich, butter adds an extra layer of creaminess to the sauce.

How to Make Cacio e Pepe

The key to this very simple dish is to get the sauce just right. That means creamy, not clumpy.

With these steps, you’ll nail the perfect cacio e pepe every time.

1. Boil the pasta. Salt the water very well and cook the pasta until al dente. Save 1 cup of the water before draining.

2. Toast the pepper. Melt butter in a pan, add the black pepper, and heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute.

3. Mix in the water and pasta. Pour some of the pasta water into the pan and simmer. Then, add the butter and pasta, tossing everything together.

4. Add the cheese. With the heat off, mix in the cheese slowly, tossing the pasta after every addition. Use extra pasta water to adjust the thickness as needed.

5. Serve and enjoy. Garnish with more cheese, and dig in!

Caco e Pepe in a black pan beside grated cheese ion a black slate.

Recipe Tips and Tricks

Make cacio e pepe like a pro with these pointers:

  • Read the recipe in full first. Get familiar with the steps! Once you start cooking, everything happens quickly.
  • Grate the cheese from a block. Finely grate the cheese by hand with a Microplane for the best results. Without it, the sauce might not be as smooth. Also, make sure the cheese is at room temperature so it melts well.
  • Keep it moving. The key to the sauce is to continually toss the pasta in the cheese and pasta water. If you let it sit, the cheese will clump up.
  • Use a large pan. You need plenty of space to toss the pasta with the sauce evenly.
  • Have a strainer or tongs ready. This makes it easier to transfer the pasta directly to the sauce, keeping everything moving.
  • Don’t use too much pasta water. You want the concentrated starchy water to emulsify the sauce, not dilute it.
  • Don’t overheat the sauce. Keep the heat off when adding cheese to avoid clumping or making the sauce grainy.
  • Serve immediately. Cacio e pepe is best enjoyed fresh out of the pan. So serve it up right after mixing. 

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

Got leftovers? Here’s how to keep and reheat them.

To Store: Place leftover pasta in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

To Reheat: Warm leftovers in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add a splash of water, if needed, to loosen the sauce.

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Remember, this is best enjoyed right away. So it’s best to just make what you need and devour it in one sitting.

Serving of Cacio E Pepe on a plate with grated cheese garnish and black pepper.

What to Serve with Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e pepe stands on its own, but a few sides make nice complements:

Broccoli Raisin Salad. Sweet, crunchy broccoli salad plays well against the decadence of the pasta.

Honey Roasted Carrots. Earthy, caramelized carrots provide a crisp-tender texture contrast.

Garlic Bread. Who doesn’t love a big bowl of pasta with crunchy garlic bread on the side?

More Easy Pasta Recipes

Applebee’s Three Cheese Chicken Penne
Pesto Pasta
Sweetie Pie’s Mac and Cheese
Olive Garden Chicken Marsala
Copycat Olive Garden Chicken Alfredo

Cacio e Pepe

Course: Main, DinnerCuisine: Italian


Prep time


Cooking time



Cacio e Pepe is a quick and easy pasta dish that combines cheese and pepper to create a delicious and elegant meal that’s perfect for the whole family.


  • 8 ounces dried bucatini, spaghetti, or tagliolini

  • Salt (for the pasta water)

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

  • 1-2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper

  • 1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano, or Parmesan cheese


  • Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook to al dente per the package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining.
  • While the pasta cooks, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cracked black pepper and toast, stirring constantly, until fragrant (about 30-60 seconds).
  • Add 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water to the skillet. Stir until simmering, then add the remaining butter and cooked pasta. Use tongs to toss the noodles in the butter and black pepper.
  • Turn the heat off and add the grated cheese in small handfuls, tossing constantly until melted. Add more pasta water as needed to thin it out.
  • Serve Cacio e Pepe immediately with more grated cheese, and enjoy!


  • Read the recipe in full and have everything ready to go before starting. Once you start cooking, everything happens quickly.
  • Use a microplane to grate the cheese from a block. It will be very fluffy and should melt perfectly.
  • Use a large enough pan. You need plenty of space to toss the pasta with the sauce evenly.
Cacio E Pepe

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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