Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta)

A classic Italian dish, Cacio e Pepe is literally “cheese and pepper pasta.” It’s the mac and cheese of Italy, but more delicious and romantic.

Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta) | A Couple Cooks

Since we’re on the subject of cooking as a couple, we wanted to share our latest cooking date with you. The recipe is from a new book called Date Night In, written by our friend Ashley Rodriguez (of Not Without Salt). It’s an incredible collection of meals from cooking dates with her husband, each with planning tips and a sweet personal anecdote. And their love story is ironically similar to ours: dorm food eating, 19-year old college sweethearts who grew up, got married, and fell in love with cooking good food together. Keep reading for the cacio e pepe recipe, and more about how we fell in love with it.

Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta) | A Couple Cooks

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 here and here), 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 big entrees, we decided to order another: cacio e pepe, 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, since we were ordering backwards and should have been at dessert at that point. No matter, we stuffed ourselves with cheesy pasta and rolled out into the street to finish it off with gelato!

Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta) | A Couple Cooks

How to make cacio e pepe

When I saw cacio e pepe in the book, I knew we’d have to give it a try. Ashley’s version also includes a Parmesan frico, a crispy cheese cracker, an interesting accompaniment for the pasta. And the pasta – oh, the pasta! This might be better than in Italy, truly. The Pecorino Romano cheese mixed with pasta water and a bit of butter comes into a creamy, peppery sauce that’s out of this world. Using bucatini, a pasta shape like spaghetti with a hole in it, is genius since it’s chewier and thicker than spaghetti. While it’s not a health food in itself, serve it with a simple green salad and homemade salad dressing for a quick and romantic meal at home. (Omit the frico for even quicker prep, or make it in advance.)

Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta) | A Couple Cooks

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!)

Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta) | A Couple Cooks

Looking for pasta recipes? 

This cacio e pepe recipe is one of our favorite pasta recipes! Here are a few more pasta recipes we love:

This recipe is…

This Cacio e pepe recipe is vegetarian, and gluten-free with gluten-free pasta.

Print

Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta)


1 Star (2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 1)

  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Yield: 2

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

By Ashley Rodriguez in Date Night In; reprinted with permission

About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is an acclaimed vegetarian cookbook author and cook based in Indianapolis. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the “best vegetarian cookbooks” by Epicurious.

20 Comments

  • Reply
    Caroline @ Shrinking Single
    January 18, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    Looks devine – especially that parmesan frico! It is amazing how so few ingredients can combine to create a heavenly dish.

  • Reply
    Trish @ Well Worn Fork
    January 18, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    Yes…..just, yes!

  • Reply
    Katie @ Whole Nourishment
    January 19, 2015 at 3:09 am

    Loved this post, and especially your backstory about cacio e pepe. It’s been so long since I’ve made this pasta. Thanks for the reminder of how special and delicious simple classics like this can be, especially for a date night in.

  • Reply
    Niels @ Have Another Bite
    January 19, 2015 at 3:35 am

    Looking good! I love the clean photography!

  • Reply
    Kathryn
    January 19, 2015 at 4:22 am

    I bookmarked this recipe in Ashley’s book as soon as I saw it – I love the idea of that parmesan frico; it just elevates the whole thing into something so special.

  • Reply
    Belinda@themoonblushbaker
    January 19, 2015 at 6:30 am

    I don’t think there is any dish more romantic than pasta especially one made with spaghetti. The story behind your dish is so lovely and warming; I can not wait to try this one from the book!

  • Reply
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    January 19, 2015 at 7:40 am

    I love a simple pasta, and this one sounds splendid! Definitely digging that Pamesan frico…whoa!

  • Reply
    Trang's corner
    January 19, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    Such a cool post! Love this post!
    Love from http://www.trangscorner.com – a lifestyle, cooking, fashion blog

  • Reply
    Lety
    January 19, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    So simple, so elegant, so delicious!

  • Reply
    Nina at FocusedonFit.com
    January 19, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    This looks so delicious and decadent! One of our New Years Resolutions was one date night out every month, but the idea of date night in….that’s good! This is especially perfect as a carb loading the meal, the night before a run….for those of you training in the new year! Pasta without tomatoes is essential pre-run fare!

  • Reply
    Ellie
    January 19, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    this looks so easy and delicious! perfect for a date night in – thanks for sharing :)

    xo, ellie
    http://withlovefromellie.wordpress.com

  • Reply
    Christine // my natural kitchen
    January 20, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    I love the idea of cooking together as a couple and elevating dinner to “date night in”, and this pasta you’ve shared from the book looks so comforting and perfect!

  • Reply
    Caryn Mellecker
    January 22, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Cheese and pepper pasta…I wish I had a bowl of this in front of me right now! Looks incredible!!

  • Reply
    Catherine
    January 22, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    A great dish to enjoy.

  • Reply
    Liz @ Floating Kitchen
    January 23, 2015 at 9:36 am

    This looks so good. Simple and elegant and delicious. I’m loving Date Night In. It’s fantastic!

  • Reply
    Letychicche
    January 23, 2015 at 10:23 am

    Molto buono….. ( very good)

    Le tue foto sono bellissime ( Your photos are beautiful).

    Ciao da Letychicche,

    http://letychicche.blogspot.it

  • Reply
    Agness
    January 24, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    That’s the best duo!!!! Omomomomomo I’ll make it very very soon :D!

  • Reply
    Alice
    January 27, 2015 at 5:26 am

    Last night, after a truly awful, awful conversation which involved two hearts getting a little bit smushed, I came home and made this for myself and it restored my faith in life, the universe, and everything. Truly magic food.

    A xx

  • Reply
    Melissa
    July 23, 2015 at 8:11 am

    I absolutely love this! I’ve made it numerous times and every time it is equally fantastic! We have an amazing specialty cheese shop where you can get excellent quality cheese at amazing prices, so i’ve been buying huge wedges of different cheeses and this has given me an excellent way to use it up! i have made this with parmesan as well as pecorino, it’s excellent either way!

    • Reply
      Alex
      July 25, 2015 at 10:15 am

      So glad you’re enjoying the recipe! Thanks for letting us know :)

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.