My friend Daniel Pascucci was lucky enough to grow up in upstate New York in an Italian neighborhood surrounded by two Italian grandmothers as well as an Italian mother, all who prepared Italian meals from scratch. One of Daniel’s favorite easy dishes was Cacio e Pepe (literally cheese and pepper), which is about the closest thing to old fashioned macaroni and cheese in the Italian food repertoire. This pasta dish is very simple, but absolutely delicious, and can be made in about 20 minutes. It is good on its own, and even better with something grilled or broiled with a salad on the side.
It’s important to use good cheese – none of that cardboard stuff in the green container – and good pasta (homemade is incredible, but a good brand of commercial pasta will do). Of course it goes without saying that the olive oil should be of the highest quality, and the peppercorns should be cracked by hand (ground black pepper can’t be used in this dish). There are only five ingredients, and they are ingredients that are usually on hand in most households. This dish gets extra creaminess by using some of the water that the pasta was cooked in, so don’t throw it out until the Cacio e Pepe is ready to serve.
8 ounces spaghetti, or linguini
Boiling salted water
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns, coarsely crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup pasta water
3/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
3/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional for garnish)
- Add the pasta to the boiling salted water; cook for one minute less than package directions to al dente.
- Reserve a cup or so of the pasta water and drain the pasta.
- Add the crushed peppercorns to a skillet and toast for a minute or two.
- Add the olive oil and butter; when the butter has melted, stir in the 1/2 cup pasta water.
- Bring to a boil and add the pasta.
- Gradually add the cheese, tossing it through the pasta until it coats the pasta evenly, adding more pasta water if necessary.
- To serve, divide between six serving plates and with a spoon swirl each serving to make it into a cone (this is supposed to help it stay warm). Sprinkle with parsley.
Amount Per Serving
Calories 345 Calories from Fat 168
Percent Total Calories From: Fat 49% Protein 16% Carb. 35%
Nutrient Amount per Serving
Total Fat 19 g
Saturated Fat 9 g
Cholesterol 38 mg
Sodium 546 mg
Total Carbohydrate 30 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 14 g
Vitamin A 8% Vitamin C 1% Calcium 0% Iron 11%