Made with 6 simple ingredients and just under 20 minutes, this creamy Bucatini Cacio e Pepe is a definite crowd pleaser!
Most of the best pasta dishes are made with simple, no-fuss ingredients. This Bucatini Caio e Pepe is one such dish. This recipe is a slight twist on the classic Roman dish that you will most definitely find yourself making again and again!
Velvety creamy rich sauce made with freshly-grated cheese and coarsely crushed black pepper coats this pasta dish made with bucatini.
This simple dish requires less than 20 minutes from start to finish and should easily make it to your weeknight dinner list!
What is Cacio e Pepe?
Cacio e Pepe is Italian for "cheese and pepper". It's a term used for a traditional Roman dish, typically made with Pecorino cheese and freshly but coarsely ground black peppercorns.
This slight twist on the classic Italian recipe uses a mixture of Pecorino Romano and Parmesan cheese. Since Pecorino Romano can be quite salty for some, a 1:1 ratio of Pecorino to Parmesan makes this sauce slightly less salty and strong, but still very flavorful!
Ingredients and Variations
The Pasta - For this recipe, I used bucatini type pasta. Bucatini are a thicker version of spaghetti but with a narrow tube running through the center.
Tonnarelli or thick spaghetti also work well for cacio e pepe.
The Cheese - For this Cacio e Pepe, I used equal amounts of freshly and finely-grated Pecorino Romano and aged Parmesan Cheese.
You can choose to make this using Pecorino Romano, or you can adjust the amounts as desired.
The Pepper - It's very important to use coarsely-crushed black peppercorns here for the best taste and aroma!
You can grind the peppercorns using a pestle and mortar, using the bottom of a saucepan, or using a pepper grinder adjusted to coarsely crush the peppers.
Pasta Water - Another important ingredient here is pasta water. This will be used to make the cheese cream mixture and to prevent the cheese from clumping.
Butter - This additional ingredient gives this sauce a rich, velvety texture. Use unsalted butter if possible.
Olive Oil - Used to toss the pasta and sauce right before serving. Use good-quality extra virgin olive oil.
How to Make the Best Bucatini Cacio e Pepe
This recipe only requires a few basic steps, but it's really important to follow them thoroughly for the best Cacio e Pepe dish!
Cook the Pasta
Cook the pasta according to package instructions (minus 1 minute for al-dente) in a large pot of boiling water.
Do not add salt to pasta water.
Reserve half a cup of pasta water before draining.
Make the Pecorino-Parmesan Cream
Place equal amounts freshly-grated Pecorino and Parmesan cheese in a large bowl. Make sure the cheese is finely-grated.
Add ¼ to ⅓ cup of pasta water and stir quickly and vigorously until a creamy consistency is reached. Set aside.
Make the Cacio e Pepe Sauce
First, coarsely crack the black peppercorns, using one of these methods.
Place whole black peppercorns in a large skillet on a solid surface, and using the bottom of another smaller pan, apply pressure to the peppercorns until they are coarsely crushed.
Crush the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar.
Crush the peppercorns using a pepper grinder adjusted to coarsely grind the peppercorns.
Do not use ready-ground pepper and do not finely-grind the peppercorns for this recipe.
Place the crushed peppercorns in a large skillet. Without adding oil, roast the peppercorns on medium heat for 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant, stirring frequently.
Stir in unsalted butter until melted on medium-low heat. Add 2-3 tablespoons of hot water (not pasta water) and bring to a low simmer.
Add cooked bucatini and toss to coat with pepper-butter sauce.
Remove skillet from heat and add the pecorino-parmesan cream. Stir vigorously until pasta is evenly coated.
Finally, add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and toss to coat evenly.
Divide the pasta between 4 serving plates and serve warm.
Tips and Tricks
Use pasta water to make Pecorino-Parmesan cream. The starchy pasta water prevents the cheese from clumping.
Roasting the peppercorns improves the peppery flavour and aroma of this dish. It can be skipped for a milder peppery taste.
Use freshly-crushed black peppercorns. Do not finely-grind the pepper. On the contrary, it needs to be coarsely crushed or cracked.
Making Ahead and Storing
I highly recommend making this pasta dish and serving it right away.
However, you can store leftover Bucatini Cacio e Pepe in an airtight container in a refrigerator for up to 2 days.
To reheat, place pasta and sauce in a skillet, add 2-3 tablespoons of water and heat on medium.
Yes. Other good pasta options for Cacio e Pepe sauce include thick spaghetti and tonnarelli.
If you prefer short pasta, penne or rigatoni are the best options.
Yes. Traditionally, Cacio e Pepe is made using Pecorino Cheese, which tends to be strong and salty. This recipe can be made with Pecorino only, Parmesan only (for a lighter flavour), or your can adjust the amounts to your taste.
Other Pasta Recipes
Bucatini Cacio e Pepe
- 320 g bucatini or thick spaghetti
- 60 g Pecorino Romano Cheese freshly and finely grated
- 60 g aged Parmesan Cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano) freshly and finely grated
- 60-80 mL reserved pasta water (¼ to ⅓ cup)
- 5 g whole black peppercorns freshly cracked (approx. 2 tsp.)
- 30 g unsalted butter room temperature
- 30-50 mL hot water (2-3 tbsp.)
- 2-3 tbsp. olive oil extra-virgin
- Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente, but do not add salt to pasta water. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water before draining.
- Make the pecorino-parmesan cream: Place finely grated parmesan and pecorino in a medium-sized bowl. Add ¼ to ⅓ cup of pasta water and stir quickly until a creamy consistency is reached. Set aside.
- To coarsely crush peppercorns: Place whole black peppercorns in a large skillet on a solid surface, and using the bottom of another smaller pan, apply pressure to the peppercorns until they are coarsely crushed.You can also crush the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar, or using a pepper grinder adjusted to coarsely (not finely) grind or crack the peppercorns.
- Place coarsely crushed peppercorns in a large skillet on medium heat and roast for 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant, stirring frequently.
- Add butter and stir until melted (on medium-low heat). Add 2-3 tablespoons of hot water and bring to a low simmer.
- Add cooked pasta to skillet and toss to coat with pepper-butter mixture. Remove skillet from heat.
- Add pecorino-parmesan cream and stir vigorously until pasta is coated evenly. Finally, add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and toss to coat evenly.
- Divide in serving plates, top with extra grated cheese, and serve warm.