Cacio e Pepe Recipe

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A classic Italian dish, this Cacio e Pepe recipe translates to “cheese and pepper” pasta. It’s the mac and cheese of Italy, but even more delicious.

What is cacio e pepe?

This recipe, cacio e pepe, has a special place in Alex and my hearts. On our latest trip to Italy (a repeat of our honeymoon that we spent in Rome and Naples and the Amalfi Coast), we shared a dinner at a little local Roman joint one night. My vegetable ravioli wasn’t quite what I expected, so Alex finished it off. I was feeling a little discouraged.

So after ordering two entrees, instead of going for dessert we decided to order more pasta: cacio e pepe! It’s the famous “cheese and pepper” pasta comfort food that’s akin to mac and cheese here in the States. The waitress looked at us like we were crazy. No matter, we stuffed ourselves with cheesy pasta and rolled out into the street to finish it off with gelato!

This book is extraordinarily beautiful and the theme of cooking as a couple for date night is superb. Hats off to Ashley for the fabulous date! Though to be honest, ours started with shooting the photographs above and ended in cold pasta. Next time!


For the Parmesan frico

  • 1 1/3 cups packed, freshly grated Parmesan cheese

For the pasta

  • 8 ounces dried bucatini
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for finishing
  • 1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided


  1. Make the Parmesan frico: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using 2/3 cup Parmesan, form a thick, even 6-inch circle of cheese on the parchment. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cheese melts and is golden. Carefully remove the parchment from the tray and flip over onto an inverted bowl. Peel off the parchment and gently press the Parmesan circle around the inverted bowl. Cool for 30 seconds and then remove. Repeat with the remaining cheese. Frico can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container.
  2. Heat a large stockpot of heavily salted water. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions.
  3. While the pasta cooks, melt the butter with 1 teaspoon pepper in a large saute pan set of medium-low heat. Let the pepper infuse for 1 minute and then turn off the heat.
  4. When the pasta is al dente, before draining, remove a scant 1/2 cup pasta water and add to the butter. Simmer for 2 minutes over low heat.
  5. Drain the pasta and add to the saute pan, along with 3/4 cup Pecorino cheese. Toss the pasta in the sauce with tongs until the cheese has melted and created a creamy sauce that coats the pasta. If the sauce is still too wet, continue to simmer until the water has reduced and clings to the pasta.
  6. Place a Parmesan frico at the bottom of two bowls and divide the pasta between them. Finish with the remaining Pecorino and more freshly ground pepper.


By Ashley Rodriguez in Date Night In; reprinted with permission

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