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.
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 this classic easy Italian recipe, cacio e pepe, and more about how we fell in love with it.
Related: Romantic Dinner Ideas
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!
How to make cacio e pepe
When I saw a cacio e pepe recipe in the book, I knew we’d have to give this easy dinner idea for two 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 this cacio e pepe recipe 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.)
Want another take on cacio e pepe? Try our Easy Creamy Gnocchi.
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!
Related: Another favorite Italian recipe — our Margherita pizza!
Buy the book
Order the book Date Night In by Ashley Rodriguez
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:
- Creamy Vegan Pasta Marinara
- Tomato Basil Pasta
- Vegan Italian Pasta Salad
- Easy Vegan Korean Ramen
- Everything Bagel Pasta
- Gemelli Pasta with Fire Roasted Tomatoes
- Vegetarian Spinach Meatballs and Spaghetti
This recipe is…
This Cacio e Pepe recipe is vegetarian, and gluten-free with gluten-free pasta.Print
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.
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
- 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.
- Heat a large stockpot of heavily salted water. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: Cacio e Pepe, Cacio e Pepe Recipe, Italian Recipes, Italian Dinner Recipes, Pasta Recipes, Vegetarian Pasta Recipes, Easy Dinner Ideas
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog 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 is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe 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.