Soon, extremely soon, I’m going to tell you more about our 12 days in Andalucía but before that, before summer is truly over, before I start thinking about cooking more complex meals again, before I even consider turning on the oven again, I wanted to tell you that this summer was the year I finally figured out how to make cacio e pepe, one of my favorite pastas, as good at you’d have in Rome, and we cannot let the summer end until you do too.
NEW: Watch me make this on YouTube!
Huh? Deb, you wrote about it years ago, in 2011. But the recipe always bothered me, and the reason is written out right in it: authentic cacio e pepe contains only three sauce ingredients: pecorino romano (this is the cacio, the cheese), black pepper (this is the pepe, ground to your desired texture, often toasted first if you’re going for extra flavor), and pasta, plus splashes of the pasta’s hot starchy cooking water to form a sauce. It doesn’t contain oil, butter, cream, flour, cornstarch or any other binders. The trouble begins when you try to merge/coalesce/magic together water and cheese into an emulsified, creamy sauce. Ever tried to mix oil and water? In my kitchen, it goes about as well as you might imagine.
Frustrated in 2011, I added a little cream and butter* to make it work. But I never “finished” the recipe in my mind. Since then, I have tried — this is barely an understatement — every single 3-ingredient technique on the internet and in cookbooks I could track down, I have watched videos completely in Italian to try to glom how they do it, walked into the kitchen, repeated their exact steps, and failed every time. I try about 6 times a year. It’s been 7 years. I never, ever succeed in magic-ing pasta water and cheese into a smooth sauce. The cheese melts before it glues itself to the noodles, cementing itself instead to the pot, the bowl, the tongs, the stuff of dishwashing dread. I imagine this sounds familiar to others.
When someone emailed me (hi, Annie!) earlier this summer and told me about Flavio de Maio’s (of the restaurant Flavio Velavevodetto in Rome) method as shared by tour guide and Roman cooking expert Elizabeth Minchilli on her site, I was fresh off my latest cacio flop and thanked her, but expressed my doubt that this would be This One. That was 2:12pm. At 6:12pm, I sent her a photo of our dinner and told her she’d changed my life, and I hope yours, possibly in the next 20 minutes.
* it was good enough for Batali, so it was good enough for me, I rationalized in 2011; what different times those were
I wrote a thing: I wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times about a favorite subject — cooking and why it’s terrible and you should never do it. Here’s the link. I hope you read, uh, to the end.
One year ago: Corn Chowder with Chile, Lime and Cotija
Two years ago: Burrata with Lentils and Basil Vinaigrette and Eggplant Parmesan Melts and Even More Perfect Blueberry Muffins
Three years ago: Angel Hair Pasta with Raw Tomato Sauce and Crispy Peach Cobbler
Four years ago: Smoky Eggplant Dip and Strawberries and Cream with Graham Crumbles
Five years ago: Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes and Almond-Crisped Peaches and Key Lime Popsicles
Six years ago: Mediterranean Baked Feta with Tomatoes and Leek, Chard, and Corn Flatbread
Seven years ago: Zucchini Fritters and Naked Tomato Sauce
Eight years ago: Sweet Corn Pancakes, Eggplant Salad Toasts and Perfect Blueberry Muffins
Nine years ago: Plum Kuchen, Lighter, Airy Pound Cake, Summer Pea and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad and Lobster Rolls
Ten years ago: How to Poach an Egg, Smitten Kitchen-Style, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, and Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
Eleven years ago: Double Chocolate Torte and Spicy Soba Noodles with Shiitakes
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Quick, Essential Stovetop Mac-and-Cheese
1.5 Years Ago: Tomato-Glazed Meatloaves with Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes and Pomegranate Grapefruit Paloma
2.5 Years Ago: Belgian Brownie Cakelets and Broccoli Melts
3.5 Years Ago: Pecan Sticky Buns and Perfect Corn Muffins
4.5 Years Ago: Stuck-Pot Rice with Lentils and Yogurt and Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew
Foolproof Cacio e Pepe
Check out Elizabeth Minchilli’s site for a video of Flavio making it himself with an immersion blender.
The traditional pasta used for cacio e pepe is tonnarelli, sometimes sold as spaghetti alla chittara, a squared-off, slightly thicker spaghetti, but you use what you can get. I’m using standard thickness spaghetti here. The traditional cheese used for cacio e pepe is pecorino romano, a sharp, salty aged sheep’s milk cheese. If you can only get parmesan, it works too, but you’ll probably need to add salt to the sauce. While the recipe below works as written, you’ll probably want to make adjustments to taste, and to the intensity, age, and saltiness of your cheese.
How much is “a lot” of freshly ground black pepper? It’s impossible to measure — too low in grams to register steadily on a scale, too varied in coarseness to measure in consistent measuring spoons, plus peppercorns vary in intensity, and your preference may not be someone else’s. Taste the cheese-pepper mixture. The pepper should be prominent and give it a sparkly kick. If you want more, add more. Remember that this sauce base will stretch over a lot of pasta, so if it tastes too intense, that’s probably correct. For what it’s worth, I counted 46 peppermill grinds on one batch, but I keep mine pretty tight/at a fine grind.
- 8 ounces dried spaghetti or tonnarelli
- 4 ounces aged pecorino romano, finely grated
- A lot of freshly ground black pepper
While it’s cooking, combine all the pecorino (except a spoonful for garnish) and lots of freshly ground black pepper in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon cold water and use an immersion blender to work it into a paste, adding additional cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, only as needed. You want to form the mixture into a paste about the thickness of cream cheese or frosting. I use about 4 to 5 tablespoons total for this amount. Blend more than you think is needed; you want this paste as smooth as you can get it. You can do this same process in a food processor, even grinding the cheese in it instead of grating it first but it will require longer processing to get the rubble-like cheese smooth.
Before the pasta is done, scoop out a cup of hot cooking water and set it aside. Drain the pasta very quickly in a colander (no need to shake every drop of water off) and immediately drop it, piping hot, into a large bowl. Add 3/4 of cheese-pepper paste in dollops and toss to combine. It’s going to be too thick to form a sauce but once it has begun to coat the noodles, pour in one small ladleful of pasta water and toss, toss, toss (a lot of movement helps here) to loosen the paste into a lightly creamy consistency that evenly coats the spaghetti strands. Taste and add more of the cheese-pepper paste to taste, or use it all. Add more pasta water as needed only to loosen.
Finish with reserved pecorino and a few grinds of black pepper. Eat immediately.
370 comments on foolproof cacio e pepe
I know it is silly to comment on this particular recipe when I can not eat black pepper, but it looks SO good. Maybe I will try it without the pepper but with some minced garlic? It looks so easy and yummy! Thanks for the technique!
Are you able to eat white pepper?
I do not think so but I have not tried. So strangely whenever I eat black pepper, I choke up and tears stream down my face. It is most embarrassing. But thank you for the suggestion.
I have a similar problem with cayenne pepper and Tabasco sauce.
There’s nothing that says that you need to use copious amounts of black pepper. Maybe just a little wouldn’t bother you? Or, just omit the “pepe” part and do spaghetti “cacio.” Put the pasta water in a large bowl, add the pasta then the cheese and toss.
Yes, I have the same trouble with any chili, Tabasco, etc. but black pepper, especially coarsely ground is the ultimate worst for me. But as you say, pasta in a cheesy sauce without the pepper…certainly could not be bad! Thanks for your comment.
Unsure if your reaction is allergic or a spice sensitivity, but papaya seeds dried and ground tastes similar to black pepper. But black pepper is a big part (actually 1/3!) of the experience here, so you might just have to miss this one. I got through college on a version of cacio e pepe made with orzo, butter, parm and black pepper – tastes great without pepper, but not AS good.
Grains of Paradise is a good black pepper substitute, and in my experience, even better than black pepper in nearly every recipe. Might be worth a try!
Oh please don’t use anything but the 3 ingredients. This will absolutely be the best spaghetti experience, particularly since she gives you a step by step technique. To say it is magical would be an understatement; think of the perfect black dress, just adding pearls.
But she can’t eat one of the three ingredients….??!
If you promise to not tell the internet on me, I’ve done the blasphemous thing of adding to cacio. 🤫 It can be wonderful with other additions. Fresh garlic, chopped fresh spinach allowed to wilt in the heat of the pasta, spritzes of fresh lemon juice, my favorite dried Italian herb seasoning (Ana’s Herbs brand) – have all graced my cacio both with and without the pepper. Some versions were improvised after running out of black pepper, then again forgetting that I still hadn’t bought black pepper. 🙈 Others were to get my “idk what you like about cacio – it’s too peppery yet bland” husband to get interested. Still yet, some made fairly well failed attempts at cacio edible. (I’ve been on a Cacio e Pepe kick since last November – well before reading about this trick.)
I have the same problem with peppercorns, but not with chili, so I use them (in smaller measurements) in lieu of black pepper. My favorite is powdered lemon drop chili, but cayenne is more accessible.
Oops meant to post this to a different thread
Made this today as it seemed like the perfect quarantine recipe. And it was. Even though I didn’t have pecorino and made it with Parmesan, it was divine. Not my first shot at this dish but the only successful one! Thank you!
I accidentally posted my response to this in another thread- but I have the same problem and use chili powders instead of peppercorns. :)
I give up. 😂
Thanks for the reply! I had the right consistency to start but it seemed to get stringy so I added more (apparently too much!) pasta water. It was delicious all the same. I was able to get it to mix back in a bit by putting it back in the pot and heating and stirring a lot. Will definitely give it another try!
(Comment went in wrong thread…apologies!)
Welcome home! Can’t wait to hear more about your trip. FYI, I believe that you are so averse to the oven right now that you even left it out of the first sentence of this post!
This looks wonderful! But I can also share the Italian method. The secret is a big bowl and two large forks. Put the pepper-oil mixture in a tempered bowl, add the pasta and half the reserved water. Then quickly move the forks back and forth, like you’re mixing a salad but more like quickly scraping along the bottom of the bowl, and occasionally mixing. Quick! Then, add the cheese in parts and continue the same motion, adding more water as needed. Silky smooth pasta with no need for a blender.
Deb’s recipe contains 3 ingredients, none of which are oil. Perhaps your method is for a different pasta dish?
I think the oil is for blooming/tempering the pepper. (Deb mentions dry toasting the pepper for added flavor.)
I think she meant *cheese* not oil. ;) And for toasting the pepper, no oil needed. Just toast in a non-stick pan.
Ah, sorry. It’s another cacio e pepe preference. To dry roast the pepper or lightly fry it in oil. I prefer the oil method. You get a really fragrant pepper mixture.
Yours is ONE Italian method.
This recipe is another !
So it’s not just me that always ends up with a giant clump of cheese. I love a good life changing recipe. My favorite tip is to toast the peppercorns before you grind them. They’re a starring ingredient, might as well give them the star treatment.
Awesome! Going to try this when we return from vacation! The usually awesome Carla Lali Music’s version was a total bust the last time I tried it.
Ugh, mine still melted to the bowl and just had big clumps of melted cheese. Followed exactly.
My daughter in law gave me a reason why the grated cheese clumps. You have to grate your cheese using a wedge of reggiano parmigiana. If you use pregrated cheese it usually contains cellulose and it doesn’t melt correctly.
I just used pregrated and this what happened but it is still delicious
Yes, any pregrated cheese usually contains an ingredient that keeps it from clumping and that causes the stringiness. Grate the cheese using a grater that produces a fine, fluffy cheese.
This probably means that too much liquid was added (imagine it “washing” the cheese off the pasta, onto the bowl and else). Definitely make sure you’re not using pre-grated cheese, too, I hear from people that it clumps much worse.
Just made this tonight and had clumps too! I used about 6 oz of a freshly grated wedge of cheese and maybe about 1/2 cup of water. Not sure where I went wrong. It still had really good flavor! I’ll have to give it another try.
I realize this comment is from months ago, but thought I’d weigh in.
I found it very important to make sure your cheese is really, really finely ground. I had my best results last night from grinding the Pecorino in my Vitamix. I let it grind down with the pepper and cold water for literally over a minute and it was so, so smooth. I’ve had issues in the past with the cheese clumping when I used my (kinda junky) food processor but last night it was perfect!
Deb!!! This is in fact, LIFE CHANGING!! I was bored and hungry so I tried it. I had basic ingredients (parm, reg spaghetti and pepper.) I did add some salt…and I am completely sold! I will never life through the cleaning nightmare of clumped cheese. So delicious, so worth it!!!
Glad to hear it worked out! But rather than add salt to the cheese mixture or to the pasta afterwards, you can add a bit more to the cooking water. And you might need to if you’re using parmigiano. If you’re using true pecorino Romano it’s so salty that Roman restaurants keep a pot of water that has less salt boiling just for that
Genius! I usually add the cheese to the pot that the drained pasta has been returned to, and I do a marvelous job of coating the sides of the pot with the cheese. This is a MUCH more effective way to make one of my favorite comfort foods!
OMG. I was just trying to figure out what to make for lunch in the midst of canning 30 pounds of tomatoes and my kitchen is chaos. Saw this on IG and 15 minutes later, had the best, most perfect lunch (especially since I had some fresh pasta in the fridge that needed a use). You are my hero.
I’ve been waiting for this since the teaser on IG a few weeks back. Can someone ballpark what “lots of ground pepper” means? A tablespoon?
Totally, IMHO, unmeasurable in spoonfuls (the grind and intensity of peppercorns will vary too much) or weights (weights of a gram or three don’t register well on most digital kitchen scales). Try a pinch of the cheese-pepper mixture. You want it to have a sparkly kick that’s to your liking, and it should be on the strong side since it will next stretch over your pasta. I think I counted 46 grinds of pepper in one batch? But again, this measurement means very little. I keep my pepper grinder fairly fine.
I tried tonight for the first time and the cheese-pepper mix stuck to the insides of my tongs. Not sure if my toss technique is to blame or the proportion of water, but ultimately the cheese slid off the tongs in congealed glops. I did notice that the cheese was sticking to the tongs and thought more pasta water might do the trick to melt it off. ARGH! Will have to try again – the flavor was still yummy 😊
If you’re unsure, I’ve had luck using about a good half a teaspoon of peppercorns in a mortar and pestle – I found the pepper tastier and the texture more varied but the downside being that chunk of pepper between your teeth that mysteriously reappears three hours later.
lol – I kind of see that as an upside!
If you watch the video of the Italian guy making it, he’s making a bigger batch than in this recipe, but you can kind of get a sense of the proportion between the cheese in the bowl and the pepper he adds. After seeing that, I think I ended up using somewhere between half a tablespoon and a tablespoon. But it wasn’t precise.
You don’t want the pepper to be so strong that it dominates everything. But you need enough for it to be present.
I went to Rome last year and fell in LOVE with this dish. I’m fairly handy with pasta, but could NOT come close to the Cacio e Pepe I’d fallen in love with. The bowl was pasta would be gloppy mess. This just made it onto our menu for the week! YES!
How did I not come across this in Rome? I must’ve been looking in the wrong restaurants! I love the simplicity of this recipe and can’t wait to try it (although I’m hoping mine doesn’t become a gloppy mess). I’m always short on time and, usually, a fridge or larder full of ingredients. Booking marking now and going for it tomorrow night :)
Hi. Can’t wait to try it. I, too, have attempted and flopped this several times. I’d be interested to know what ratio black pepper to cheese in more specific terms than “a lot.”
and thanks in advance!
A few people have asked now, so I just added this note to the headnotes for others:
How much is “a lot” of freshly ground black pepper? It’s impossible to measure — too low in grams to register steadily on a scale, too varied in coarseness to measure in consistent measuring spoons, plus peppercorns vary in intensity, and your preference may not be someone else’s. Taste the cheese-pepper mixture. The pepper should be prominent and give it a sparkly kick. If you want more, add more. Remember that this sauce base will stretch over a lot of pasta, so if it tastes too intense, that’s probably correct. For what it’s worth, I counted 46 peppermill grinds on one batch, but I keep mine pretty tight/at a fine grind.
Mine stuck to the bowl. I think I added too much water to the paste. It was still good. I fried up some pancetta cubes to add to it. Not my finest cooking hour! But I will try again!
I have tried this several times and just can’t get it right. Hope this technique works. Can’t wait to try it.
My other question is why can’t I put this on my Pinterest board. ☹️
Not sure. I was able to pin it with no problem.
Nice recipe! First paragraph is missing a word though… “before I even consider turning on the again” Turning on the what?
Also, a couple more… “which will I bet will a lot more often after today” and “but expressed my doubt that this would be This One.”
I wonder if one could make up the cheese/pepper/water paste and storenit in the fridge or freezer to have it ready for small servings?
That’s a great idea! I’ll try that. Thanks!
My sentiments, exactly.
I bet it would work great. Freezer, probably. I suspect it would mold faster in the fridge with water blended in, but what do I know, really.
Yes, you can definitely keep it in the fridge. And in fact, Flavio actually prepares it a minimum of 24 hours beforehand. This way the pepper really gets a chance to infuse into the oils of the cheese. If you put it in a tightly sealed container, like a jar, it should keep for a week. I’ve never tried freezing this, but I do freeze hunks of parmigiano (shrink wrapped) so I’m sure that would work. Just remember, air is the enemy.
Brilliant – that’ll save a load of time and taste even better. PS: I never knew you could freeze parmigiano!
Thank you! This is what I was wondering as well. I am usually cooking for just myself, so it would be great to make up a batch of the cheese mixture and freeze little portions of it for one serving.
Thank you so much for taking us to Spain with you. I enjoyed every Instagram post and story. You have exotic vacations with little kids down to a science. And this pasta looks awesome. I will be trying it after my September Whole30 is done. My mindless summer eating and boozing orgy has to end sometime so I’m taking drastic measures.
I snorted when I read this, Charlotte! You’ve perfectly described my summer… here’s to a more moderate Fall! That means we have a couple of weeks left to indulge…
I’m so going to make this, asap! Question, immersion blender OR food processor (as that is what you have in images)?
Either will work!
Ii have no food processor or immersion blender. Will a regular mixer work or the little blender I use for my frappes?
I’m not sure which one you use but if you have no blender, I would microplane rasp the cheese (by weight) and then, since the cheese is so fluffy and fine, it should be pretty easy to whisk by hand with the pepper and a tablespoon of water at a time to form the paste.
This looks so good! How ironic that I’ve recently been wanting to make this sometime-in-the-very-near-future-as-soon-as-I-have-a-free-evening-but-not-this-week-maybe-next. And now I have no more excuses.
As an aside, I’ve recently been watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on AmazonPrime. I frequently think that if Midge Masel had been born a generation or two later, she would be a successful food blogger very much like Deb Perelman.
!! I do love that show. And want her brisket recipe — and her wardrobe — because of course I do.
I love the article, and it’s the same for me too. I don’t have time, there are already loads of leftovers in the fridge, there are a half-dozen excellent and cheap restaurants within a 1-block walk, and many recipes just suck (thanks to you and Americas Test Kitchen for providing so many of the exceptions!). But it is one of the rare things that I do with nearly 100% focus, and I’m so happy when it turns out well. I’m excited to make that happen again with this recipe, too. Thanks, Deb!
Where do you fall on the grate your own cheese vs buy it already grated for this recipe?
I generally prefer grating my own because the prepackaged stuff can often container other things to keep the cheese strands separated. This is less often the case if your grocery store does it for you. But I also like knowing what cheese I’m getting by seeing the wedge/block.
I used grated Romano from Trader Joe’s when I made this last night. Maybe fresh would be better, but it still came out great.
Been waiting all summer for this one. Can’t wait to try it. Thanks
Saw this, hopped in the car for spaghetti and pecorino, came home and made it. STUNNING. Thank you so much! I used an immersion blender and only 3 tablespoons of cold water to make the paste. Other than that, I did everything as instructed and it turned out amazing!
I ended up using 3 tablespoons too with my immersion blender. Might have been able to get by with 2. Definitely worth adding the water in stages.
I have made this dish many many times and would suffer from a broken sauce about half the time. I have since switched to Locatelli pecorino romano, which is aged longer than the norm. My sauce has not broken since. It’s a bit more expensive, but as Ferris Bueller says, “if you have the means, I highly recommend picking it up.”
For those interested, I sauté the pepper in 2 tbls evoo, then add the cooked pasta, pasta water, and finally the cheese (off-heat). Good luck! :)
The article at NYTimes was really great Deb. I love to cook, but sometimes I f*cking hate weeknight cooking. Cooking as an immersive pastime is soooo different to the drudgery of putting food in front of (often uncooperative) family members three times a day.
I hate having to be the president of meals, keeping a tally of what vegetables my picky toddler has eaten during the week, ensuring we have a kitchen full of staples, keeping track of how many times we’ve had takeaways and ensuring we aren’t spending too much.
I love the escape of a cooking project. The creativity of a recipe tweak. The science of baking, of browning meat, the ability to change a few ingredients into something amazing. I love the escapism and concentration.
Cooking is the best. Cooking is the worst. Weeknight dinners suck. Thank god for pizza.
“I hate having to be the President of meals” <—-This is exactly how I feel. Loved Deb's article, too.
And on top of it all the complaints of the spouse/partner about my complaining about cooking dinner… Wah! ;-)
I loved the NYT piece, Deb!
And I’ll have cacio e pepe for lunch today – Thanks to you!
Yes. Exactly this! You nailed it with “President of cooking”!
Just made this! Worked a dream until I very slightly over-did it with adding the pasta water at the end though. So don’t be like me and just trust that any cheese clumps will melt without water! Even if you do, don’t worry, it will still be scrumptious :)
I am SO EXCITED to try this. We have failed in every way imaginable—right down to the Italian-language YouTube videos.
My boyfriend grew up in Rome and we’ve visited together many times. Cacio e Pepe is one our favorite dishes, but we’ve had problems making it at home. His dad (a restaurant owner in Rome) even gave us a lesson and we still couldn’t get it. That’s until tonight. This method for the pecorino is ingenious and it came out so so delicious. Thank you.
Your Feb 2010 between of this has been a house favorite for years. I was excited to try the update – and maybe not spend so much time on cleanup after. But this made just as much of a mess. Stringy vs clumpy doesn’t seem worth bringing it the immersion blender to clean. I’ll stick with the old one. (Still wicked delicious either way).
This was my experience as well: both delicious, both a challenge to clean up, quite a bit of sticky cheese on various dishes either way…
This is one of my favorite pasta dishes EVER! Can’t wait to make it at home.
Only had penne. Used the same ounce-weight and it was perfect. Ended up using three tbsp of cold water for the sauce and 1/4
Cup pasta water to loosen. Thank you!
Deb, you’re the best! Loved the article!
Loved your NYT piece… I shared it on FB and saved it with all my cookbooks :) Brava!
Thanks so much for sharing the recipe Deb! I hope your world remains forever full of cacio e pepe. But if for some reason you need a refresher course, you always have Rome. Maybe it’s time for a visit? (Personally? I went to Flavio last night, and am going again tomorrow. This is NOT what I had in mind for my September back-to-work diet!!)
Although I’m excited to try this “foolproof cacio e pepe,” I’m most inspired by the op-ed. Yes, yes, yes – and thank you
Rachel Ray said more often when she’s boiling pasta, to add salt to the water until it’s rolling boil. Otherwise, just goes down the pot and eventually damages the pot.
I’ve never heard of this, but have no pot damage from adding salt early on. I do it right away so I don’t forget later!
I was always taught not to add the salt until the water is boiling, or *just* before, or it could cause pitting. This link has a thorough explanation: https://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/30253/is-there-evidence-that-adding-salt-to-water-prior-to-boiling-can-damage-a-stainl
Can’t remember the names of other celebrity chefs who practices this technique. Today I saw on my FB timeline Martha Stewart’s “How to Cook Pasta”. Here’s the link—https://www.marthastewart.com/973694/how-cook-pasta?utm_campaign=marthastewartliving_marthastewart_trueanthem&utm_content=5bbddbbc04d30142f9e5ce37_evergreen&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com
Can’t remember the names of other celebrity chefs who practice this method. Today, I saw on my FB timeline Martha Stewart’s “How to Cook Pasta”. Here’s the link—https://www.marthastewart.com/973694/how-cook-pasta?utm_campaign=marthastewartliving_marthastewart_trueanthem&utm_content=5bbddbbc04d30142f9e5ce37_evergreen&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com
Deb, how about:
I think I skimmed it and closed the tab because he suggests using olive oil too, which was exactly what I wanted to avoid. (I already have an inauthentic recipe on the site!)
That said, I do not doubt that with years of practice that one will succeed in knowing the exact amount of water to ladle in so it coalesces with the cheese and the exact amount of vigorous stirring required so the cheese doesn’t separate out, or this was my theory. But after all these years of flops, I’m thrilled to have a recipe that should work for everyone.
After reading this at 9:30am, I needed to make it…and proceeded to have an early lunch by 10am. I, too, have tried and ended up with the dreaded (and too-much-work-to-clean) glops of cheese goo. This technique worked wonderfully. Still had some cleanup issues in the bowl, but the smooth flavor was so worth it.
So much for the new week diet! I’ll try again at dinner…
Exactly, This is the routine work everyday I wake up. I have to prepare breakfast, lunch in early morning. This technique worked very nicely.
I learned to love cooking because of your blog (and books!). It was awesome to read this particular recipe and your relationship with cacio e pepe over the years, because it speaks directly to my own experience. I’ve consistently used Bon Appetit’s recipe, and have consistently faced the glop. Really excited to try this one out. Thank you for being inspirational, and such a reliable resource.
For the spaghetti and for the pecorino romano you say
‘see note at end”
I cannot find ‘note at end’!!
that is, in the list of ingredients…
Oops, I moved it to the top headnotes, right under the title. Will edit.
I had given up on this except ordering out. It worked the first time using your method. Thanks.
I made your 2011 version four times last week and feel I’ve prepared sufficiently to try this one out. Fingers crossed and very excited to have something else to use my immersion blender for!
Could you give us a general idea about how much pepper, since I’ve never had this before? Like, are you talking a teaspoon, a tablespoon or a 1/4 cup? Thanks for all the great recipes!
Oh gosh so excited to try this method. I just always thought that the cheese adhering to the tongs, spoon, pot, etc was normal for this meal. Thanks for finding The One!
I just made it and it was fantastic! Thanks, Deb!
I’m not sure what happened but I ended up with a stringy ball of cheese
It couldn’t be tossed over the pasta. Did it become a ball before or after adding the pasta water?
I also got a clump of cheese (though mine was more like one long string, about ten inches long and an inch thick), after adding the pasta water. Was that the issue?
It didn’t work for me, either. Multiple clumps of cheese not sticking to pasta even with adding more and more pasta water. I will try again!
This is a game changer. Ever since we got home from our vacation in Rome, I have been trying to get Cacio e Pepe right. I made this tonight and it came out perfect. Thanks!
This was magic- so delicious! I actually made it with Trader Joe’s yellow lentil and brown rice spaghetti and it came out awesome!
I made this tonight and way overdid it with the pepper. I took about a generous teaspoon full of peppercorns and tasted then, then grinder them in my spice grinder. I’d say I had a tablespoon of coarsely chopped pepper. Unfortunately added it all to the cheese before reading updated notes which says to taste and then add more if needed. It was on the verge of inedible. But the sauce did come together and I didn’t need much pasta water added.
Simple and delicious! I made this tonight using the fine grater Cuisinart disc to grate the pecorino and the blade to make the paste, and it worked perfectly. I also just scooped the pasta directly from the pot into a large bowl and found that enough hot water clung to the spaghetti that it easily formed a sauce. Thanks for another great recipe!
It’s approaching bedtime and I’m tired, but after I read this post, I went straight to the kitchen and munched down a hunk of Parmesan. sighhhhh This recipe does not bode well for my hips.
Thank you for persisting and then sharing this recipe. It is absolutely scrumptious and full of flavor. Plus it is fast to put together. I used your food processor method and it worked like a charm. For the paste 1 1/2 t. fresh ground pepper and 3 T of cold water seemed about right.
So, I followed the instructions exactly and my cheese clumped up into large globs? Admittedly I did not use pecorino romano but rather king soopers Parmesan… could that be the culprit? It was delish nonetheless just not very sexy looking. 😂
Not sure what king soopers is (a store or brand?) but it could have been that if there were other additives. Did it form a paste? Did you work the paste over the pasta before thinning it with pasta water? Let’s figure this out!
I’ve now made this once as a globby mess and once successfully. I suspect the key is being generous with the cold water in the paste and sparing with the hot water. My successful version used several tablespoons of cold water and essentially no hot water at all at the end. I’m often guilty of not reading recipes carefully, but when it says to reserve a cup of hot water that does NOT mean you use the whole cup :-)
I made this for the first time tonight and ended up with the dreaded cheese clumps too. I ended up adding it back to the pan and heating again and melted some of it but it was a bit of a disaster. Maybe I needed more water in the initial paste?
Admittedly, I was making two batches at once (one with gluten free pasta and one with regular and they really turned out the same) with the “help” of my small children so maybe too many things at once? It just sounded so simple! I used the immersion blender but had cheese flying all over my kitchen so I think I would opt for the food processor next time.
Ha! This is so awesome! I figured this out on my own, from playing around with a genius variation of fettucine alfredo I got from a church cookbook, and a pastini recipe I got from our Italian preschool teacher. (It can work with some other cheeses!)
Except I never cook the pasta so long. I bring it to a rolling boil, cover it, turn off the heat, and throw a few dish towels and potholders on top. By the time I’ve whipped up that sauce and set the table, voila! al dente perfecto! Mostly just for not making the kitchen hot in summer.
Thank you, thank you, Deb! You made my day. I love your blog, and how your posts are often little persuasive essays or satisfying little puzzles.
Oh my goodness! This actually works! I too have tried and failed but this is foolproof.
That article was just what my – rut stuck- self needed.
Hi Deb! Just curious if you’ve you heard of/tried this technique from Cook’s illustrated where they suggest using half the usual amount of water to cook the pasta so that the pasta water is starchier. It shoes up in the recipe for Spaghetti Carbonera (but interestingly not in their recipe for Cacio e pepe). Do you think this approach would that help emulsify the cheese better in Cacio e pepe as well? Asking for a friend who doesn’t own a blender….
I have heard of this technique, I’ve never used a lot of water for pasta so I’m not sure how much of a difference it makes. Without a blender, I might mince the cheese and pepper together really well, and then mince and kind of schmear the cold water in. You can form the pasta on a cutting board with a knife, just keep working it. Maybe I’ll demo it soon. :)
So glad I found this recipe! I am travelling with a fussy 14-year-old daughter who will eat pasta until it comes out of her ears but has a mother who can only ever think of pesto, meat sauce or pesto. I made this yesterday and wanted to tell you it was lovely :))) It didn’t go globby on me which was a success and also to say I had never EVER thought of toasting the peppercorns before but I did on the recommendation from you. The difference is amazing. Thanks again!
Wow- interesting! I’m excited to try this method. I have used a splash of cream in past cacio e pepe ventures as well….
This is one of my favorite pasta recipes! Simple, yet also elegant and delicious. It looks truly fabulous.
Where. Has. This. Been. All. My. Life?!?!?!
I need this in my life before the summer is over!
Made this last night! Was very delicious, but think I didn’t quite nail the right ratio of pasta water to paste/pasta.
One question I had: I made this with fresh pasta, do you think that could have impacted the amount of starch in the pasta water and how that could have impacted the sauciness of the final dish? Was delicious, but felt like I could have gotten the consistency just a touch better (probably just because it needed more pasta water).
I loved the article on why you should never cook. All the way to the end. It made me smile but I now love popcorn even more (if that was possible)
This is a wonderful recipe! So quick and easy and it feels special. Loved it! Ok so here’s a confession: I started making it with my immersion blender, but the cheese was kind of flying all over the place. So I just mixed it with a wooden spoon. The cheese was well grated so that helped. The texture was perfect – just as described in the article. Also, only because my pepper mill is on it’s last legs, I used my mortar and pestle to grind up A LOT of peppercorns. The varying textures were awesome in the pasta.
This is life changing. I’ve already made it twice this week. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Confession: I was also disappointed by your old recipe but it’s you and you can do no wrong in my book, so I forgave it.
But this…this is life changing! THANK YOU THANK YOU! ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.
This was delicious and worked perfectly! Thank you for being obsessive about recipes, so I don’t have to!
I can’t wait to try this – cacio e pepe is my favorite pasta dish! One question: is there a way of knowing how much 4 oz of cheese is without having a food scale? Could you maybe give an equivalent approximation as to how many cups that comes out to when grated? I only have a giant block of Pecorino from Costco but I want to make sure I get the proportions righht!
An accurate electric, small flat, food scale is less that 20 bucks at Target or Amazon and you’ll use it so much once you have it. Deb gives all her baking recipes w/weights and its so much more accurate. I’d recommend just pulling that trigger.
It’s sooo hard because each grater type will have a different cup size for 4 ounces. About 3/4 cup? Whatever you do, don’t measure cheese grated with a microplane rasp, which will make a cloud of cheese with no weight.
And now I have the thrill of saying that you changed “my” life. I had my way with the recipe last night, and let me tell you….outrageously easy, and the best rendition of this dish EVER! Lucky for me that you decided not to give up on Cacio E Pepe, and that you found, tried and shared. Up until last night, I’d vibed with a version that used a tad of cornstarch for even emulsification. Now that seems vulgar. Oh, am I “smitten” with this newfangled pure form of Cacio E Pepe. I made the Pecorino paste a couple of hours in advance, leaving covered at room temperature. What a joy to have restaurant style pasta in the blink of an eye. Deep thanks for what you’ve shared.
Yes! I saw that video this summer and was intrigued. Almost ate at Flavio Valevodetto’s restaurant last summer when in Rome, but couldn’t make it there. Trying this tonight!
Haven’t read most of the comments, so forgive me if this is a repeat. I read an online article this summer (can’t remember where – again, need to ask for forgiveness) and it narrowed down the issue to adding the water to the cheese when the water was too hot (or when your pasta is too hot, depending on your recipe). The cheese turns into glue when it is too hot, instead of just melting. I’d had your same frustrating experiences with this too, but once I started letting the water cool some, instead of trying to do everything while piping hot, it finally came together.
Here is the link – https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2016/nov/03/how-to-make-the-perfect-cacio-e-pepe and the explanation –
Temperature is crucial: not only must the cheese be at room temperature, but the cooking water that is added to loosen it must not be too hot, or “the cheese will start to coagulate and the fat will separate, creating gummy lumps on one side and watery casein on the other”, as Baccanelli and Barreca explain. Scooping it out halfway through cooking, as Roddy recommends, seems to work a treat, as does allowing the drained noodles to cool for a minute before adding them to the sauce, as in Baccanelli and Barreca’s recipe. López-Alt is not alone in combining sauce and spaghetti in a cool pan, as opposed to that the pasta was cooked in, in order to control the temperature better, although unless you’re very slow, you shouldn’t need to reheat it afterwards, as he suggests.
Ah, I tried that method too! (I wasn’t kidding when I said I would try any three-ingredient method I found anywhere at any time.) I loved that she went for authenticity. It works, but personally I find this quicker (because it takes so long to cool the pasta water, just for a, to me, questionable amount of starch in a few tablespoons), easier (sauce glues better to hotter pasta), and less risky (if you don’t cool the pasta water enough).
Totally get that. And I think the cool water blending method is a good way to address the fundamental issue of having the cheese get too hot. I’m just weighing it against my unreasonable, but almost insurmountable, reluctance to washing the food processor and it’s mean little blades.
oh my this is delicious! my husband almost always reaches for the salt with what i prepare but he devoured this without hesitation. the pepper provided a great kick- far from overwhelming but, as advertised, clearly present. and deb, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts in the times. as my mother-in-law believes, you have a career waiting as a regular contributor. cooking and baking have long provided a safe place for me, though to be clear, safe does not translate to peaceful. i have screamed, shouted and cursed, but always know the next time is just that, another opportunity to make it work. thank you again and yes, this recipe is indeed foolproof!
We made this last night and it was delicious! My wife has developed a cow milk allergy, so was so excited to see a recipe that was crafted for peccorino romano (sheep cheese). Thanks!
Ok maybe this is crazy, but I was wondering if you think it’d be possible to make the paste ahead of time, then store in the fridge for a while? The idea of cacio e pepe on demand is so intriguing!!
Absolutely. See Elizabeth Minchilli’s comment on it here.
I made the cheese paste hours in advance, and actually kept it at room temperature, covered. I wanted the paste to be at room temperature anyway, and my rationale was that Pecorino itself would not spoil at room temperature for this relatively short duration. I had zero worries about water and pepper staying at room temperature as well :)
I enjoyed your op-ed from the New York Times (as you referenced in your cacio e pepe post), but could do without the political innuendo!
No one cares, Alice.
Exactly. No one cares. People need to be opinionated. Too many sheep already.
Well looks like it’s not foolproof after all. My cheese paste turned into hard clumps as soon as it touched the pasta water. Not sure where I went wrong :(
The cheese paste should be stretched over the pasta as much as possible before adding the hot water. You should add the pasta water very judiciously; it may not need much at all. Too much and the cheese will separate and drop into the bowl.
This is seriously genius! I’ve been making cacio e Pepe for years to varying degrees of success. I have always battled with the cheese coagulating. This technique worked so well. Thank you!
My husband & child had been gone all week for various reasons so I hadn’t cooked dinner once this week. Friday night comes & I have no idea what to make and very little inclination. Luckily, I saw this. Within 1/2 hour, dinner was on the table & not a drop was left. An added bonus, I really want to book a cooking class with Elizabeth Minchilli.
Made this last night and it was yummy! Instructions for the process were perfect (and cleanup wasn’t that bad!). I used about 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground pepper. Trader Joe’s sells pecorino romano already grated, so I used that. It was a bit too salty for my taste, so I ended up making the recipe with half grated parmesan and half pecorino romano.
This recipe was too good to be true for me! Rather than using my microplane like usual, I used a large box grater and put what seemed like a few peppercorns directly into the food processor–what could go wrong? Everything: the cheese wouldn’t blend and the pepper stayed mostly intact no matter how I made the processor whine. I eventually used a knife to chop it all as close to a puree as I could until the pasta was done. Needless to say, my cheese clumped, water gathered, and the pepper was sharp!
All of this to say that if you make this recipe, make sure not to try any short-cuts like me and make sure your parmesan is nice and soft first. For now, I’m sticking with the 2011 version!
Like some others (at least I’m not the only dork who screws up a ‘foolproof recipe’!), I ended up with lumps of stringy cheese in my pasta.
I followed the recipe exactly, and all seemed to be going well — the pureed cheese and pepper mixture was coating the pasta and looked even and good, but then I think it got too hot, because before I even put in any of the pasta water, it started coagulating into little lumps of stringy cheese with the rest of the pasta surrounding it, mostly naked. I mixed the pasta + cheese sauce in the pan I cooked the pasta in, so maybe that was my mistake. It tastes… *ohkay*, but I imagine it is supposed to taste much better. The only nice thing is it really did only take 20 minutes to make, so it’s not like I wasted an afternoon on a recipe that didn’t work. I’ll try again some other time…
Going to go make some apple cake to make myself feel better.
This comment is old, so I’m not sure if you’ve tried again BUT the issue here was most definitely that you mixed the pasta + cheese sauce in the hot pan. One of the biggest issues with the traditional cacio e pepe recipe is that if you overheat the cheese when you add it to the pasta, it clumps and sticks to the pan. I think this is the error you reproduced. The nice thing about Deb’s updated recipe is that only the residual heat of the pasta itself “cooks” or melts the sauce (and, if necessary, it gets a helping hand from the pasta water). The gentle heat is what allows for the magical emulsification to form. Try it again!
I made this tonight and it was perfect! So easy and cozy, exactly right. I admit I added some pancetta, but only because my husband had actually requested carbonara for dinner and I didn’t feel like dealing with that particular sauce when you had just posted this!
I made this after having a hankering all week and then you posted a simple recipe! Made the cheese-pepper paste on Friday and thought the sauce was too clumpy. Then I realized that the cheese-pepper paste was too cold – room temperature would help a lot. I have now tried two more times with room temp paste and can say that is the secret! And not too much pasta water.
Some of my cheese paste formed a sauce, but some of it clumped up into stringy cheese wads. The sauce that did form was tasty and encourages me to try again. Next time I might let the pasta cool for just a minute, and make super sure that the cheese paste is evenly coating the pasta before adding any water.
Where did you get your pepper grinder? It’s beautiful! Also, this looks amazing. Cacio e Pepe and a tomato salad is one of my all time favourite meals!
I actually got it from the same place I get my cutting boards, a very talented guy in my neighborhood, see here. I talked a bit more about the cutting boards a couple years ago.
Made this last night for dinner, and it turned out nearly perfect. I didn’t think about the saltiness of the cheese when cooking the pasta, and wish I hadn’t added so much salt to the cooking water. I bet this method would work well for fettucine alfredo too. I do wish I didn’t need to drag out the food processor (I have a hate/love/hate relationship with that kitchen appliance). Maybe it would work in a Vitamix too? Or maybe it’s just time to invest in an immersion blender.
i loooooove my immersion blender! i use it all the time: smoothies, dressings, sauces, granitas… it’s great to puree some or part of your soup without removing it from the pot or doing it in batches, and the cleanup is awesome, just the little wand attachment. way easier than the multiple parts of upright blenders or food processors.
This dish, paired with a glass of red wine on a cool September Sunday evening, was absolute bliss. I have been meaning to try making this, and it was worth the wait for this recipe. Gracie mille!
This worked really well! I’m excited not just to have this new recipe but because I have several involving parmesan that are always clumpy, no matter what I try to use to help with the melting (cream, broth, etc.).
They’re so simple I can just tell you what they are: spinach pasta, chopped prosciutto, parmesan; thinly sliced asparagus, pasta, lots of pepper, parmesan.
This was brilliant!! I’ve also loved this dish but got the gloopy cheese disaster every time (i.e. random, huge hunks of half-melted cheese in some bites and no cheese in others). This worked! I used parmesan cheese with some added salt and put in pepper to taste. I ended up using all of the reserved pasta water and got a nice, saucy cheese mixture. I thank you and my stomach thanks you :)
I read to the end. Your collection of recipes has helped me enjoy my kitchen. I know your recipe will work out. If I come home from the market with blueberries, I know you will tell me a good way to use them. When I was wondering how to fix the Yukon Golds my husband just dug from our garden, I found your recipe for Easiest French Fries! Loved your oped!
I know this is sacrosanct, but for years I’ve been making this dish by bringing pasta water + a knob of butter to a simmer until creamy and THEN adding the pepper and cheese and pasta. NO sticky mess, and the cheese folds in and combines perfectly with no lumps. No additional dishes or pots and pans needed either.
Ha! I found her recipe after we got back from eating cacio e pepe nonstop in Rome over Feb break, followed the video, and ours tasted just like in Italy! It really is so simple, and my only regret is we walked right by the restaurant and didn’t go in!
I don’t know what happened. I followed the directions to the letter. I ended up with huge clumps of cheese that just would not melt. It was unsalvageable, and ended up in the trash. So disappointing. :(
Did the cheese clumps appear before or after the pasta water was added?
I had trouble with this recipe when it was first posted, and for a while I thought I was just not meant for homemade cacio e pepe in my life. Thanks to your YouTube video I felt confident enough to try again today, and WOW-so delicious, great texture, and EASY. I think my mistake in round 1 was mixing the pasta and sauce in the (still-hot) pasta pot instead of in a separate, cool bowl. Sharing here in case this helps anyone else reach cacio e pepe nirvana!
Whoops—posted my comment as a reply, but leaving it as-is; sorry all!
We just made this for dinner, and WOW, IT WORKED! We added steamed broccoli at the tossing point (because i need vegetables), so less pasta water. It was delicious, and will enter the rotation of work-night dinners. Thank you so, so much for this!
This was DELICIOUS!
Thanks for cracking the code, Deb!
Wow! I’m so glad I came across this recipe. I found it very easy to make. I didn’t end up adding too much hot water because things seemed to get pretty loose and creamy quickly. My batch was particularly salty. Next time, I’ll dial back the salt in my water to accommodate for the very salty pecorino romano available at my grocer.
Hi, we are planning to make this for tonight’s dinner, but I have a feeling that it does not make a good microwave lunch for tomorrow. Anyone tried reheat it in a microwave?
We made this last night and it was a success: we followed the recipe exactly and it worked great. An awesome truly quick pasta recipe that is also tasty. We ate all so the microwave question I posted earlier is obsolete now :) Still, if anyone knows the answer, I’d be interested.
I have. It’s not as perfectly textured (al dente pasta continues to “drink” the sauce, thickening it) but it’s still good.
Perfection! I made it with Angel hair because that’s all I had in house. It was a challenge to get it mixed without ending up in a big ball, but I did it. We are sitting here with tingly tongues…thanks for another winner, Deb!
I made this twice in a week:
The first time it worked perfectly and it was delicious.
The second time I tried to make a half recipe and somehow the cheese melted and seized into chunks and did not coat the noodles.
I just ripped the cheese chunks into tiny pieces and put some parmesan on top and we ate it anyway, but I’m very curious why it might have worked the first time and not the second because I made it the same way…
So glad you were again in Spain (I live in Costa Brava very close to your last summer vacation spots) !
You mus still be in a misty “back to office since …”, because I cannot see any European measurement stuff in your recipe. Well, the principle seems simple: you weight the cheese and double the quantity in pasta …
Looking so much forward to reading your Andalucia stories. Carry on please, por favor! Marja
Indeed, I am slow getting back in the swing of things. However, all the ingredients are in weights — shouldn’t that be sufficient?
Made this last night. Used some pre-grated cheese from Trader Joes, combined it with around a tablespoon of fresh-ground pepper and water using an immersion blender. Seemed pretty together after 2 tablespoons of water, but since you had used 4-5, I started to wonder whether I had used enough. So I added a third tablespoon.
Immersion blender was a bit tricky, as cheese paste would get stuck in it. Maybe it was our model (Cuisinart). In any case, I got everything together. Next time I might try the food processor instead, even if it take a bit longer.
From there, everything went as expected and it turned out great. Both my sweetheart and I enjoyed it a lot.
Next time, I might not salt the pasta water quite as much, as the cheese past is already pretty salty, and adding the salty pasta water to it pushed the dish right up to the line of being too salty (but not quite 😊).
We had the pasta with a tomato and fresh Moz salad, using tomatoes and basil from our garden. That was a really nice compliment, as the acidity of the salad took a bit of the edge off the richness of the pasta dish. Just dumped some salad right in the bowl next to the past. All good. Might garnish with a little parley next time, even if it’s not traditional. I think a little color would be nice.
It WORKED!! I’ve been trying to make cachio e pepe for years and always ended up with glue or watery. . . something. This dish has been my bête noir for years. Until now.
Thank you. I’ve conquered my own culinary Everest thanks to you.
I made cacio e pepe successfully before I switched the brand of pasta I use. I like the taste of my new brand better, but it leaves the cooking water way less starchy. I think the extra starch used to help emulsify the sauce since it made the cooking water alone all gooey. (I used to use Wegman’s brand organic spaghetti, now I use the Field Day spaghetti) I have to try this method and see how it goes! Thanks, Deb!
I found your Instagram about 2 weeks ago and I am in heaven. I have never been much of a cook, much better at baking! I have made 5 of your recipes and have loved every single one! Last night, I braved this one. Never having made (or attempted) this type of recipe, I was intimidated. But with your detailed instructions I went for it. And it was amazing! And gave me new confidence in my skills! Thank you for sharing your delicious and different recipes!
Was excited when this recipe came out & yesterday I made this with freshly grated Parmesan, dry toasted peppercorns, and reduced salt in pasta water. Served with a side of garlicky spinach. Made paste earlier in the day, chilled for a bit, then brought back to room temp while prepping dinner. It came out really great! I didn’t need to use much of the reserved pasta water after/while tossing with the cheese paste. The bowl I tossed the pasta in was tough to clean; maybe will try soaking longer next time.
Thanks for sharing!! Will definitely make again
I made this tonight (along with a side of white beans and spinach) after a long, horrible day running errands. It was perfect, comforting and not crazy heavy.
As ever with Deb and this blog, delicious flavor. But I failed to achieve perfect creaminess. There were still chunks of melted cheese that i could not incorporate fully into the pasta even with more hot pasta water. I think maybe I needed to blitz the sauce more fully in a regular Cuisinart with the big-ass blade instead of the mini so that the cheese really broke down. All that said, come on it’s pasta and cheese – satisfying and super tasty.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I had an Italian parent of a child in my class track down some tasty pecorino for me (we live in Germany, and it can be hard to come by…) and this dish was a hit. Not only with me, but with my meat-lover husband AND my picky toddler. I’ve been dreaming of this dish every since I first heard of it 4 years ago. I was not disappointed!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! We’ve been trying to make this since we last had it in Rome a year ago. Failure…until now. It was perfect and easy. Grazie!
I had never eaten cacio e pepe, but this sounded wonderful, so I knew I had to try it and spent $11 on the little wedge of cheese. It sat in the fridge for a few days waiting for me to make up my mind about which immersion blender to buy. In the end, they all sounded flawed in some way, and I chickened out on buying one. But rereading your post, I decided if I shred the cheese first, my (manual) food processor might do the mixing job just fine. It did! I first shredded the Pecorino Romano using the side of the grater with the tiny four-point stars. That took 5-10 minutes. But then it was a cinch to mix with the pepper and cold water. Having watched the video you linked, I was confident going into the mixing stage, and I THINK it turned out fine, although it’s my first experience with this dish, so who knows! I hope the leftovers reheat well because I want this again tomorrow! And my picky two-year-old kept asking for more.
I find it hard to credit that it’s been 7 years since I started reading and cooking from your site. This post reminded me that it was a quest for a recipe for Cacio e Pepe that led me here in the first place. We had been on a visit to NY and I’d fallen in love with the dish as served at Lupa. I was never able to reproduce it to my satisfaction but I’m ready to try again.
I’ve made many, many recipes from your site with great success. I thank you (as does my husband) for all those years of good eating.
This is off topic from cacio e pepe (which is amazing – thank you!), but I am so excited to hear about Andalucia… I’m in the midst of planning a trip to Spain next summer and would of course love to hear about yours!
I’ve been reading (and using!) your recipes for years. I’ve loved following your beautiful little family. Your daughter was born just a few weeks after mine, so I’ve enjoyed watching them grow together (in a hours apart, have never met kind of way, but you know what I mean).
I found your op-ed piece a week or so before you mentioned it here, and it got me thinking about how to maintain that meditative peace you mention when your little cherubs are “helping” in the kitchen. I’m sure you know that’s a whole different ballgame!
Anyways, thank you for the inspiration :)
As easy and delicious as promised. Didn’t have enough parm., so used a bit of Gruyere to make up the difference, and used orechiette instead of spaghetti, and it earned raves at the table. Next time I’ll keep the orechiette but use all parm. A keeper. Thank you for a beautiful website.
Ah yes thank you for acknowledging the dreaded pile of cheese on my pasta tongs and not on the pasta! Excited to try this and now that you have brought it to light, it makes so much sense! I usually do this same technique with homemade pesto- get it really thick and paste like and then stir it into the pasta and thin later. Brilliant!
This really worked! I made the old one you posted several times, but to be honest it always bothered me as well, but I figured it was one of those restauranty butter/oil combos.
This was incredibly rich and the texture was perfect. Thank you!
I made this recipe and it was easy and delicious! My immersion blender (Cuisinart) comes with a blending cup (vessel?), which worked perfectly. I’ll make this recipe again and again!
I am wondering if the measurement of the cheese is by weight or volume. As in 1/4 cup. Thank you!
Sorry, I meant 1/2 cup = 4 oz.
Will absolutely be trying this method! I ate this in Rome a few years ago and could never work out how to recreate it properly. Thanks so much :)
It took me too tries but I think I got it. Thanks for the tips!!!
Thank you for this, I’ve finally tried this tonight (needed some pasta & wine after today) and successfully had no giant ball of cheese on the tongs and lots of cheese coated pasta in the bowl.
Perfection. Followed the instructions to the letter and it was the cacio e pepe of this carb-craving pregnant lady’s dreams. Having this by myself for lunch while my toddler napped made me *almost* feel like I was back in Italy… nah, who am I kidding, I would need a couple negronis before that could happen. Counting down to when negronis can come back into my life, but until then, this cacio e pepe is making me very, very happy. Thanks Deb!
Strange outcome. My soft paste turned into hard clumps of cheese and pepper when combined with the wet, hot pasta. It didn’t form a sauce. I have no idea why.
I’ve made the old version of this recipe as well as this one both with diasterous results. The old has all the problems described, but this one came out watery (I barely used a ladle of water) and had dollops of the “cheese frosting” that refused to melt or incorporate. They just got stringy. I’m not sure how I could’ve mixed this better (tried tossing with tongs and the two fork technique), but I’d love some help.
Because some people will have a softer “paste” than others, it’s not an exact science but if your cheese paste is spreading fine over the pasta, don’t ladle on more water — it’s not needed. The pasta needs to be piping hot, right from the boiling water.
Ok, so I made this. The first time, I spent a small fortune on cheese, and it came together like a dream and I ate it after I put the baby to bed and it was a miracle. The second time, I used ‘meh’ cheese (it was still a triangle, so i had to grate it, but it was budget parm) and it clumped and then got sticky and was awful. I still ate it with wine while the baby slept, but I learned my lesson– quality ingredients really are worth it! Thanks for the new technique, Deb, and helping me learn :)
I had tried and failed to make every Cacio e Pepe recipe the internet could provide me. Tears were shed each time I attempted this dish because I would fail so miserably and waste x amount of dollars worth of cheese and pasta. Until I ran across yours! It is truly foolproof and soooo delicious. I wouldn’t change a thing, thank you!
This is delicious. I made the cheese / pepper mixture and then realized I didn’t have any spaghetti. Oops. I served it with penne and loved it. I made the cheese paste in a food processor, as I can’t picture how an immersion blender would work with so little liquid.
Just made this and sadly it didn’t work for me. I think it went south after I added some pasta water(1-2 Tbsp). Made the paste mid aft. and let it sit at room temp til dinner. I reserved the pasta water 3 min before pasta was done, then tossed pasta and paste for a good 3 min. At this point it looked pretty good, but somewhat dry so feeling rather confident I tossed in the water. Clumps started forming, tried adding more paste, more water. All I got was more clumps. It was very tasty tho. My wok used for tossing is soaking in sink.
Made it a second time and ended up with separated gloppy cheese : (
I didn’t use an immersion blender this time. Instead, I mashed the water, cheese, and pepper with a fork. I don’t know enough about emulsification. . . do you think the blender does something that the fork doesn’t?
Do you have a food processor? That’s what I used, just a little cheap ninja one, and it made the mix nice and creamy.
I took “foolproof” too literally and added too much pasta water at once at the end. It basically rinsed the cheese off the pasta but it was still delicious! Next time I’ll be a little more careful, lol.
easy and delicious; we used the sauce on a full pound of pasta; we had leftover, and I’m thinking they’d be great in a variation of your Spaghetti Pie with Pecorino and Black Pepper!
I am so excited to try this recipe. I have experienced the same melted cheese on pot mess as described by all. Thank you for sharing.
Question: I want to make this for a larger group this weekend. Do you think I can just double the recipe and make it all at once? Or should I make in batches to make sure the sauce melts? I am referring only to the end mixing step, I will definitely make a larger batch of the cheese paste.
I did exactly that, and it was perfect! Not a bite left. And I used a tiny ninja food processor to make my cheese and pepper mixture.
Amazeballs! My son and I watched the video, and I made it exactly as is (with the exception of doubling the recipe). The bowl was clean! This was so fast, simple, and delish, that I’m sure it’ll become a staple in my house.
I’ve been waiting for one of those desperate-but-still-wants-actual-dinner nights. And here we were. This is brilliant. I actually worked off the process by memory rather than sensibly referencing back and used warm water in my food processor, but all turned out just fine. Creamy, peppery, silky pasta. Actual dinner. It’s good for the spirits.
I have to say that this dish was a hit. Super easy and delicious ! Thanks :)
I was inspired to make this over the weekend by a random internet comment that had nothing to do with food. I’m SO happy I did and I also feel like I finally understand cacio e pepe! This was delicious, simple, and super easy. Also, I made mine with pre-grated parmesan and thin fettuccine noodles and it was still delicious so I can’t wait to try again with a proper block of pecorino romano!! (It’s actually pretty tasty when reheated, but definitely better fresh.)
Foolproof! After too many failed lumpy, clumpy attempts at cacio e pepe, this recipe answered my prayers. One slight change: I “bloomed” the pepper in 4-5 tbsps on warm olive oil, then used the oil in the place of the cold water.
First time making it. So yummy.
I halved the recipe, made it in a mini-food processor, about an hour before I got around to pasta cooking so it came to room temp. Mixed with piping hot pici. Blended right in and barely needed any pasta water. I couldn’t be happier!! Thanks! No more glop.
Definitely going to try this. Had Cacio e Pepe for the first time in Tivoli this year and it is soooo good!
Thank you for sharing this. I am about to move into my own apartment and am looking for recipes so I can begin working on my “barely there” culinary skills. Cacio e pepe is my favorite pasta and while the ingredients are minimal, I think that might make it even harder to perfect. Thank you for sharing this recipe! I am excited to try and will report back :)
This has been my story with potato gnocchi, I’ve only once made light fluffy clouds that melt in your mouth and have been trying it for years with no idea what was different that one time. Can you share if you figure that one out too?
Great recipe! I’ve also tried about 10 different versions – I found it also works well to take out some pasta water halfway through the pasta cooking, let the water cool for a few minutes, then add it to the cheese and pepper in a separate bowl and whisk it in – this makes a nice creamy sauce. However, I’ve found adding hot pasta actually makes the cheese clump, whereas letting the pasta cool for a minute or two helps it blend with the sauce better.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!
Just made this, really delicious! My husband is away this week, so I halved the recipe – I can confirm it’s the perfect solo dinner.
Thank you so much for this very helpful recipe and explanation! I’ve been trying to make classic Cacio e Pepe for years and have always ended up throwing in the towel and adding olive oil, butter, or cream…which all stick to the bowl, not the noodles. This technique really does yield perfect pasta, every time.
This is awesome! I made it for dinner a few nights ago and we devoured it. I’ll be making it again regularly.
Deb – I have gone to you so many times before when wanting to try a new recipe. This is my husband’s absolute favorite food when we go out for Italian. I am a good cook but he likes things “just so”. He loved this recipe. It was so easy to execute.
One note that may be obvious to others but wasn’t to me, I used a porcelain bowl and will definitely warm it next time before putting the pasta in to help keep the pasta hot.
This was SO good! Just like I had in Rome on my honeymoon. So glad you included that you used 46 grinds of pepper, I used that as my jumping off point and I ended up using 56! Thank you so much for sharing!!
This is not foolproof. It didn’t work for me. Maybe add that the cheese can sense your mood and you shouldn’t make this when you’re having a bad day.
I just made this for dinner tonight with fresh homemade pasta. I am not one to write reviews, but this was an outstanding recipe! I followed the directions exactly and everything came out perfectly. The sauce was smooth and creamy, no clumps of cheese which was something I was worried might happen. Thank you so much, this one is a keeper!
This is interesting !
The spaghetti that done only basic ingredients reminds me about my trip to Rome years ago. I didn’t even add some salt or other spices but the dish is very delicious and unforgettable flavor.
we are trying this tonight. I’m trying to move my daughter away from pasta with butter (she’s 13) and its time to branch out.
she said this sounded good to her.
I’m off to grate cheese now!
Hi, I notice you say to use an immersion blender, but your photos show a food processor. Can I use a food processor? Thanks!
Delicious! The sauce is so creamy and coated the pasta perfectly with this method. I put hot water in the mixing bowl while pasta cooked. Hot noodles, hot bowl, cheese paste, and voila. Perfecto. Thanks Deb!!
Deb, I tried this out and it was perfect! Thank you for posting :)
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I finally made cacio de pepe that was not a big, globby mess!
I am a beginning (75 year old) cook. I have recently been roped into doing my fair share in the kitchen, which somehow ends up being Tuesday and Thursday nights. I made this recipe tonight. My wife and I agreed it tasted like plain pasta. I think I may have grated too little cheese. It seemed like a lot was left stuck to the immersion blender. My wife ( very experienced cook— knew about the recipe as soon as I mentioned it to her) had a good idea: dump the pasta in the same bowl you mix the cheese and pepper in— that way nothing is left behind in the mixing bowl. Her other idea: after tossing the melange, put it back in the hot spegghati pot, maybe even with a little heat, to keep it warm.
Did you, perhaps, use a microplane zester/grater? If so, it can produce what will look like a lot of cheese but is actually very little (because it’s so fluffy). I wonder if that was the culprit in it not seeming cheesy enough.
Deb – since the descriptor says “fool proof”
I’m embarrassed to ask this question but will anyway. I made this last night and as I was halfway into stirring the cheese/pepper paste into the noodles it began to form into a robbery glob that I couldn’t dissolve.
The mix seemed to be the right consistency.
What went wrong??
Tell me about your cheese! Was it pregrated? Did you get the paste totally smooth before adding it the pasta?
This turned out perfectly with a lovely creamy pasta. I ended up doubling recipe so needed to mix 1/2 Pecorino and 1/2 Parmesan. Can’t imagine it being any tastier!! Thanks.
I had clumping :( But it was still delicious :) I think I didn’t get the paste on the pasta fast enough. I was juggling a salad at the time.
Any reason you couldn’t make this with fresh pasta?
So good. I made this with preshredded parmesan, using a mini foodprocessor. For one person – a scant 1/2 cup of parm, 25 grinds of pepper and 3+ tablespoons of water. Pulse in the mini processor (make sure that you scrape the sides often). Would probably have been even better with pecorino.
I made this tonight. Sadly this method didn’t work for me. I had lots of clumped cheese. Maybe I added too much cooking water and too soon?
The only method that has worked for me to get that silky sauce and no clumps is adding cooking water, a fat and the grated cheese to a sauce pan, and once the sauce is combined, I add the pasta.
I’m curious to try this method again to try and get it right but it’s such a bummer to get clumps.
I made this with my own recipe and it was a dismal failure!! As I read your post I just kept saying “yes”, “Yes”, “oh Yes.” Everything that you said went wrong went wrong for me. Even though my family is Italian, my mom and grandmother never made this dish. My Dad had it in Rome at a wonderful place on the Via Veneto where he insisted we lunch every day that we were in Rome. He alternated between Cacio e Pepe and their amazingly thin pizza. I tried to capture the dish so many times and had the cheese issues you mentioned every time. I ruined so many sponges trying to clean it up. lol I think this recipe may be it and I am trying it tonight. I don’t have any pecorino, but I have a nicely aged reggiano parmesan which will be fine. Love your blog and wish my blog didn’t have to be about living with IBS, but c’est la vie. My daughter has your cookbooks and loves them.
Has anyone tried making this in a Nutribullet instead of a food processor? I’m worried that it won’t work as well….
I am eating this for the first time right now, and it’s delicious!! I watched the video on Elizabeth Minchilli’s site, and it really helped. My advice is: don’t be shy about using all the mixture the first time you make this and adjust the next time if it’s too heavy or overpowering. I’d like to add more, but that ship has sailed because the pasta isn’t hot enough anymore.
I think this is perfect for two as an entire meal with a garlicky sautéed green, like broccolini or spinach, or for four as a small, rich appetizer before a lighter meal, such as fish, clams, or chicken with a caper sauce, or a salad with tuna on it, as an example.
Thank you, Deb!!
Oh gosh so excited to try this method. I just always thought that the cheese adhering to the tongs, spoon, pot, etc was normal for this meal. Thanks for finding The One!
I am allergic to black pepper so I dry papaya seeds and use those as my black pepper which works great.
Question – does the pepper paste keep? I made WAY too much. If I ever want to kiss my husband again there is no way I can use it all. How can it be stored for future cacio e pepe cravings?
I am a HUGE fan of yours and have always found most every recipe of yours to be foolproof. Sadly the one that’s called foolproof didn’t work for me!! I followed it to the t, and had so much clumping well before the water was added. I was moving the pasta around like a madwoman but nothing helped. The water then just made it worse and I had stringy cheese and peppery water. I ended up putting it all back in the pot and heating it up – it tasted ok but I think much of the cheese and pepper was left behind. Ugh.
I made this and Deb speaks the truth! My only addition was salt. I had cacio e pepe a few weeks ago in a popular Atlanta restaurant and no doubt the batch I just made from SK was better. And, I timed myself 17 minutes start to finish. Good quality pecorino is a must. I used A LOT of pepper but didn’t measure.
My boyfriend and I have started making this after eating it in Lazio last year. So delicious! Great recipe! Thanks
This recipe is so simple and so delicious!!! So happy to find it, this will help me use my Costco splurge of 4 pounds of Pecorino Romano. Thank you!
I read this article with interest because it explains your process for the cheese sauce. I did not make this recipe, but I made your corn cacio e pepe from July 2019 issue of Bon Appetit. (Your Corn cacio e Pepe is not to be found on this site???).
I wanted to look you up to ask what I did wrong in that recipe because I never got to the “glossy sauce “ stage. The cheese clumped together with the corn into tasty bites of cheesy corn and then there was the naked pasta. I did like the flavor and simplicity (if it worked ) but it didn’t. In BA you say to blend the cheese, pepper and water together with a fork until it resembles cream cheese, I never got a smooth cream cheese-like consistency, it stayed a grainy lump. But in this article you say to use an immersion blender. Is that the secret?
I read the 2 reviews on BA’s site and they got the same result I did.
I know you can’t respond to every email, but I want to make sure I see your answer to this.
I’m sorry you had trouble. The trouble I see in the comment on the recipe on BA is same as comments here from people who had a problem and it’s happening when too much water is added. A thick paste sticks to pasta; a loose one may not. However, if yours didn’t get a smooth paste, it’s more likely due to the grind of the cheese. It’s important that the cheese is very finely grated (microplane or the smallest holes on a box grater were in my original instructions but things have to get cut for space sometimes and other times just because they found it not necessary in additional testing at BA) or it won’t mash smooth. If you don’t have very finely grated cheese, I’d use a food processor or immersion blender instead. Hope this helps for next time. I’ll be doing a video or Instagram demo over there soon which I hope will make things more clear.
I just made this and things were going well but the sauce then seemed to separate. It went from creamy to very liquidy with thick strings of Romano. Any ideas? Initial cheese mixture too wet?
At what point did it separate?
Has anyone tried this recipe with gluten free pasta? Just wondering how it works…
Here is one comment that mentions it: https://smittenkitchen.com/2018/09/foolproof-cacio-e-pepe/#comment-1222424
It works !
The 1st time I made Pepe e Cacio, it was like chunks of pizza cheese in the pasta.
This time, nice and smooth !
I make your old version of cacio e pepe regularly and, while I occasionally get a minor clump or two, we’ve always loved the taste. That recipe doesn’t use cream (it has butter and oil), despite your headnote. I do recall that Cook’s Illustrated had a recipe that relied on it, though?
My question, however, is about the change in proportions. Both versions use 4 oz of cheese, but this new one is for half a pound of pasta, versus a full pound in the old recipe. Can you talk about the change? A half pound of pasta isn’t enough for my family, but I try to be frugal with expensive cheese and 8 oz of good pecorino seems a little spendy!
This one doesn’t have the clutter of other ingredients — it’s the real taste you’d have in Rome. And all of the flavor comes from cheese and pepper, so you’ll need more.
The easy cheat version I make for my kids– melt the cheese in some of the leftover pasta water in the pot. Throw the spaghetti in after that. It won’t win any awards but it’s super-quick and it works!
I just made this and it worked absolutely perfectly, and was delicious. And it was so easy! I grated the cheese with the grating blade of the food processor, and then made the paste with the normal chopping blade. I needed only the tiniest amount of the reserved pasta water at the end.
It took me two tries to get this right, but I’m so glad I tried the second time because it is glorious! I feel invincible!
As an Italian I would just put half of the grated cheese in a bowl, pour hot water and mix with a whisk. At the end, serve with the rest.
But your method might be easier for a better blend.
Good morning Kit. My Italian G.F told me they used to make a spaghetti pie as follows. 3 Ingredients, a doz eggs, as they were plentiful in Italy, a cup and a half of pecorino grated, and a pound of spaghetti. Beat the eggs, add tons of pepper and the grated pecorino then the cooked pasta al dente. Bake in a pie plate or loaf pan at 375 for an hour. This was a dish the poorer families made for lent.
It is delicious.
This is absolutely perfect as is! … but also I recently got offered truffle oil, and added some of it to the mix. O.M.G.
I was inspired to finally give this a try after seeing your instagram live yesterday. I did everything you did exactly, except I used parmesan instead of pecorino. Sadly, as I tossed the cheese/pepper paste with the pasta before adding the water, a thick layer of the cheese developed on the bottom of the bowl, and some clumps simply wouldn’t dissolve at all. Could this be that I used parm instead of pecorino? I refuse to give up!
Did you use pregrated? But no, I don’t think that was it. If the sauce sticks to the bowl, not the pasta, you probably added too much pasta water, which “washes” it off.
We just made this. It was amazing! We just went to Italy for our honeymoon last summer and we enjoyed this with a bottle of wine we brought back. Thank you so much! We will be making this regularly.
Just made this and it turned out delicious. It has both a gourmet feeling and easy comfort. What a perfect combination! I found Pecorino with Pepper at the store, added some extra pepper, drizzled with olive oil, I am in pasta heaven.
Just made this (craving cacio e pepe after I ate at Vic’s last weekend) and it worked perfectly!!! I watched the video on Elizabeth Minchilli’s site, so I was ready to swish and toss, toss, toss the pasta once the paste was added. No stringy cheese issues, but I think it helped that I used a very fine grater that made the cheese almost like powder. My husband and I ate the whole bowl- thank goodness our mini guy doesn’t like white sauce pasta, otherwise we wouldn’t have had enough! Thanks for sharing this technique, will be our go-to for quick pasta from now on!
Thank you for this recipe. Dinner was easy and the entire family loved the pasta! Game changer
You’re a saint. Thank you SK. Your ricotta changed my life, and I feel this will too!
Totally delicious, but so much cheese!!!!!! I don’t know who can feed 3 people as a main on 8 oz of pasta???? I measured 400 grams (c. 14 oz) of dry bucatini for 4 people like they do in Italy… but getting close to a half a pound of grated pecorino started looking crazy! I finished my pecorino piece at 3 oz and then went with parmesan plus a little salt for the rest .. but stopped at 4 oz with a mircoplane zester and the ratio seemed perfect, even with all the cheese clumping that still occurred. Still, for a last minute family dinner “in” on a FREEZING November Friday night this was perfect & just like we’ve had in Rome! Thank you!
Thanks for the recipe! Ate this so much when I was in Rome last year, so good to eat it again!
Dear Deb: This does not turn out well if you, say, had to go on vacation, and threw some storebought pre-grated Romano a houseguest left you in the freezer. I had to add too much water to get the immersion blender to work, and worst of all, the chalky cheese had a bitter aftertaste. Cheese can dry out, ugh. I will try it again–freshly grated cheese from a block has got to be better!
Woo-hoo, second try worked. It made a difference to use freshly grated cheese–my husband ate all 8 ounces, sad to say. :) I steamed broccoli and put it on the side and that made it healthier and, a bit less salty. So delicious! My immersion blender alas is too wea– food processor was necessary.
First, this method is genius. Second, I am a true Californian and used spaghetti squash as the base, and this is one of my favorite things I’ve ever made. (The bonus with squash is that it stores and reheats well for work lunch the next day.) The one thing I would change is to use as little water as possible in the cheese “frosting” mixture. The squash ended up giving off a lot of water so the result was a little wet, but still pretty damn good.
Deb you the real MVP!
This is wonderful, thank you! I’ve been really gunking up everything I cook lately and this gave me my first success in recent memory. Plus it is delicious and inexpensive (except for the wine I bought to go with.)
We’re made this for the first time tonight. Despite going a little overboard on the pepper (my husband thought it was the perfect amount), the dish turned out perfectly.
I have also failed and failed at cacio e pepe and will try this technique! But sharing a favourite fix here: If you make cacio e pepe in the most classic way using GNOCCHI instead of pasta you get a thick, creamy almost mac’n’cheese-y texture. I make this about once a month now and it’s the BEST!
I just read your NYT piece (Never Cook At Home). You are so right! By which I mean, of course, that I agree with you. I cook for all the reasons that you do, plus one more: some days dinner is the only thing I did all day that I can point to.
This seems like the perfect solo dinner and after watching the immersion blender version I thought I could try and do it with smaller quantities and a whisk and, reader, IT WORKED splendidly.
I used parm because I had it. Loads of pepper, teeny teaspoons of cold water at a time…. whisk away and the paste formed and it was perfect.
I am never going back!
I have leftover cheese paste. Can I freeze it?
This worked out great for me BTW. I forgot to save the pasta water so I just kept adding the cheese paste a little at a time until it was covering all the pasta. Yum!
Thanks for make this recipe so easy!
I second this question! If I wanted to eat this several nights in a row… can I make a big batch of paste, or will something weird happen? Normally I’d experiment, but cheese is expensive!
(Although I was actually imagining just keeping the paste in the fridge for a few days rather than freezing.)
Hey hey! So I decided I’d rather maybe lose $6 worth of cheese than definitely have to do a whole set of dishes every night – and I have field notes!
It works – the paste keeps. I doubled the recipe (1 lb. pasta, 8 oz. cheese) and used what I needed on the first night. Then I packaged up everything separately – leftover cooked pasta, cheese paste, and, yes, I jarred up my starchy pasta water – and put it in the fridge.
For the next few nights, I tossed the cooked pasta with some pasta water in a skillet, got it nice and hot, tossed in some paste and more pasta water, and eccolo – cacio e pepe every night of the week, in 5 minutes or less.
I did take everything out of the fridge a few hours before dinner so everything could warm/soften up. I’d planned to do a test run using the materials straight out of the fridge to see if it was possible to be even lazier, but we ended up eating it faster than I anticipated. :-O
Personally, I wouldn’t freeze the paste. My impression of this technique is that you’re basically turning a hard cheese into a soft one (brilliant!), but soft cheeses usually do terribly in the freezer with all that water expanding and contracting. I’d be curious to know how long the paste would keep in the fridge, but… again, it got eaten fast, so I can’t say.
So with all the tossing, the end result was perfectly sauced, but unfortunately was barely warm by the time we plated it. Any suggestions to keep the heat with how much tossing needs to happen?
This recipe is terrible! Putting an immersion blender into a bowl of dry cheese (with one tablespoon of water) means cheese goes flying all over your kitchen. Please try these recipes before posting them.
Here is a video of the chef Flavio de Maio making it with an immersion blender at his restaurant in Rome.
Wow! I’m always on the lookout for a good pasta recipe . This looks delicious and it seems you did a lot of homework to get it right! I will definitely give it a try. Do you think it would work with whole wheat spaghetti?
This was my first try and it turned out very nice! I have never had cacio e pepe. It is so simple and yet so tasty! Love this. Thank you for the foolproof method.
Thanks SO much for sharing this innovative method. It totally works!
I hack this a little further and actually cook the pasta in the Instant Pot on high pressure (right about half the amount of time called for for spaghetti rigati) in enough chicken broth to cover and a splash of olive oil or butter. Then I immediately quick release, strain off some of the super-starchy water and reserve, and proceed with the recipe as written (adding the cheese paste). It works great and is so silky! Foolproof, indeed.
made this tonight for dinner with the mediterranean pepper salad. we ate it on the deck with white wine & it was perfect & so easy!
a thought: the next time you cook pasta in boiling salted water, could you reserve some of the leftover water that would normally go down the drain or into your compost, and keep it either in the fridge for a few days, or longer by freezing it, and then using that water, once cold to blend with the cheese? Would that impair or enhance the flavor or consistency of the sauce?
The cheese clumped, I didn’t get any creaminess—tasted good but that was it. Bummed for sure!
Any idea what happened?
Have you ever seen a version of this where you boil only enough water to cover the pasta completely and don’t drain it after it cooks??? I’ve only made this recipe once and that’s the way I remember doing it. I thought it was odd, but I added the pepper and cheese directly to the pan with the pasta and what was left of the very starchy pasta water. It mixed perfectly – no clumps, no sticking to pot. I just assumed it was the way everyone made it.
Merry Christmas Eve from the worst year ever! It’s 8 AM in Chicago and I’m currently eating a mini tester bowl of this (I cooked off a bit of pasta to test the paste as I didn’t want a flop at Christmas Eve dinner). TL;DR – it worked perfectly!
I read every single comment on the recipe and here’s what I did.
1) My Whole Foods was sold out of the expensive Fulvi Pecorino so I used pre-packaged mid-tier Locatelli Pecorino which is widely available on Amazon. I used a weighed amount which I find to be FAR more accurate than volumetrically measuring cheese as the consistency of the grind really has a varied effect on volume.
2) I cut the wedges of cheese into planks and ground them to bits in my mini food processor.
3) Then I added 8 OZ (yes I doubled the recipe) of the ground cheese and 1/2 tablespoon (about 50 grinds) of fresh ground pepper and two tablespoons of water to my Vitamix and ran it on a low setting until it got stuck. I continued to add water in dribbles until I had added the full 10 tablespoons (again, note i doubled the recipe) and the mix legitimately looked like cream cheese frosting. All in all, I probably ran the Vitamix for 8-10 minutes, starting at a low speed and consistently inching it up until I got to 8 when it would inevitably get stuck and stop. I think this really helped. I also added more pepper along the way – ending up around 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon. It should have bite but I preferred to err SLIGHTLY on the side of less pepper, adding more to taste at the table.
4) Then, I boiled some pasta in lightly salted water and grabbed it out of the pot with a spider when done (leaving the pasta water in the pot). I mixed in about two spoonfuls of paste and stirred quickly until the pasta was coated. I added ZERO pasta water. I think that if you add the full 4-5 tablespoons of water to your paste, you’ll end up needing zero pasta water which makes the recipe that much more foolproof. My pasta + paste alone looked a bit watery/soupy but tightened up about a minute after being combined.
5) Finally – I think it’s important to have the paste at room temp. You can keep it in the fridge for a few days, but best to bring it back to room temp before you use.
Good luck. With mid tier to high quality ingredients and some patience with a Vitamix – this really is absolutely foolproof and it’s a total game changer for dinner parties (when we can host them again next year!).
Merry Christmas and thanks Deb!
Mine broke when I added pasta water, and I think you have it right: if you made a fairly wet paste, you don’t need the pasta water
I found this recipe from another recipe’s comments, ironically. I made the other recipe but I’m looking forward to trying this one, especially since I’ve found other great recipes on this blog!
Because it’s not very obvious, I feel like I should point out a big step since it’s not obvious why and our muscle memory from making pasta would think it’s ok…
After draining pasta you MUST transfer to a new, fresh, room temp bowl, NOT back in the pot. When you go to add in the paste, the heat of the pot will cause the cheese and pepper to clump into what is like a cheese curd and your dish and hard work is ruined!
Hope this helps others! Enjoy!
Wow, I can’t believe how easy this was! I followed the exact recipe. I recommend leaving the cheese out to get to room temperature before you start cooking. I didn’t have an immersion blender, and don’t think it’s necessary at all. I was able to get the paste by just using a whisk. I love that it all comes together in a bowl! When I would make it in a pan, it would make a mess on the stove from stirring the pasta so much. With the bowl, it’s so much easier to mix everything together without making a mess! The only con I have, is the pasta cooled quite a bit by the time I was done mixing the sauce. I really wanted to get it right though, so I took my time. Next time, it shouldn’t take me as long! I’m going to make it this way from now on. THANK YOU!
I know this is a subjective question but how many entree-sized servings would you say this makes?
This didn’t work as well as I expected. Ended up with a lot of cheese and pepper stuck to the bottom of the bowl. However, it was still delicious, with a little extra cheese and salt and pepper on top. My family ate it up, so that’s all that matters!
After watching the CNN Show “Searching for Italy with Stanley Tucci”, I was intrigued to make this. And this recipe did not disappoint!!!! We loved it! Thank you Deb. Also, strawberries are in here in Florida and I just finished baking the Strawberry Summer Cake for the second time in 2 weeks. Definitely a keeper!
This was probably my 6th or 9th attempt at cacio e pepe. Two times were a success, but one of those I cheated with butter (in what world does butter not make this dish better though???). I got a little worried when I first started to mix the cheese, because it was doing what a failed cacio e pepe would do- cheese would get stringy and not incorporate into the pasta. But as soon as I added a little pasta water, all was good! -Thanks!
PS Now that I know that I can make this dish, there’s no shame in adding butter.
I actually figured this out accidentally … always an accident…. always perfect
I have tried to make cacio e pepe many times and like you ended up with clumps of cheese. I’m definitely going to try your latest method and if it is anything like your other recipes it should be a smashing success. Thank you!!!
If I don’t have an immersion blender or a food processor, would a regular blender work? I tried finely grating it by hand and using a fork to blend to a cream cheese consistency and I still got the dreaded glop of cheese that sometimes happens with the normal method when I started stirring it in. I think I followed the recipe pretty closely otherwise, so I’m not sure where I went wrong!
It should, but if it seems gloppy, you might have needed less water. It might be easier to add water 1T at a time and making sure it’s a smooth as possible before adding the next 1T.
I tried this method last night and it was one the best cacio e pepe’s i’ve made at home! No more clumpy cheesy mess in the pan and on the tongs and none on the pasta! I also added in a bit of miso (an homage to Rose Cafe in Venice), which also added a nice dimension. Definitely the best way ever!
Deb – what do you call a person who can’t make a “foolproof” recipe turn out right?! I followed to the letter and ended up with a glob of peppery cheese surrounded by a tangle of noodles. I mean…it tastes good but where did I go wrong??
Usually if the cheese separates from the pasta, it either needed more water (so it could smooth enough to attach), or less (too much and it kind of “washes” off the noodles). But it’s almost always in the water level. Look for a (so unappetizing, I know) toothpaste-to-frosting consistency to coat the noodles. It will seem too thick. Then, once they’re coated, add more pasta water, 1T at a time, until it loosens into a glossy, coating sauce.
Sorry but although I followed the directions the sauce pooled into a gloppy mess on the bottom of the bowl. It still tasted very good but had to scrape it off the bottom.
If the sauce falls off, it had too much pasta water added so it basically “washed” it off. If you try again, try adding a smaller amount of water, just 1T at a time.
I make this all the time and my boyfriend LOVES it! I always have pecorino in my fridge cause it’s such a great recipe to make when you are almost out of groceries too.
I’ve never made this dish before today. Made this recipe for lunch and completely lost my mind! Absolutely amazing! Followed the recipe to the letter and it was absolutely perfect!
Just perfect. No notes! Made with some fancy fancy extra-long bucatini and it was *chef’s kiss* perfect. I made some extra paste and am excited to use the leftovers for… who knows! Dressing vegetables? Spreading on toast and broiling?
A technique tip: I scoop the cheese paste into a large stainless steel bowl and use tongs to lift the pasta directly out of the water and into the bowl. After reserving some pasta water, I place the bowl over the pot the pasta was cooked in (like a double-boiler) and stir vigorously with the tongs, adding more water if necessary to loosen. I think having some gentle heat makes it less likely to seize up, and it means that it’s still nice and hot by the time it makes it to your plate! I also use this strategy for pesto, ie when you have a sauce that shouldn’t really be cooked.
Thank you for this tip! I am going to try it next time – it makes a lot of sense and think it will help me get the tight consitency. I love this flavor so much I am not giving up!
I followed this recipe as closely as I could and ended up with a tasty gloopy mess. Looking at the other comments, it looks like I must have added too much pasta water and “washed” the sauce off the noodles. It’s sad because with all that cheese it’s an expensive mistake to make, but I will try again.
I was disappointed with this recipe. At first when I stirred in the cheese paste (loved the tip to both grate and blend it in a food processor), it looked like it would make a smooth sauce, but as I stirred and added some of the pasta water, the cheese got clumpy and even stuck to the edges of the bowl. So, some of the noodles had too much cheese and others barely any at all. My toddler loved it and ate a “mountain of noodles” as she said, but I was disappointed.
Thanks for awesome Recipe
DID NOT TURN OUT AT ALL…globs and globs of goop…NO WAY
Then you did something wrong. Follow the instructions to the letter and it will be delicious.
Just follow her directions.
I would like to share how I tried f’d it up trying to make it into a “main dish”. I added a bit of shredded precooked chicken and then added the cheese mixture and all the cheese stuck to the chicken and NONE to the noodles. Don’t do that. I made it a different time, followed the directions and it was super good.
Here I am in 2021, feeling a little uninspired in the kitchen and work and life in general. And then I came to this recipe and I’m feel restored. Thanks for all you do to revive us, Deb. I’m a long-time reader and never-commenter, and I don’t know why because I make your recipes all the time. You cracked the code here, as you always do.
Any recommendations for an easy side dish to serve with this?! Can’t wait, it looks delicious!
I love it with greens, either Crispy Broccoli with Lemon and Garlic or this Kale Salad with Pecorino and Walnuts.
Thank you for the suggestions! The broccoli sounds right up my alley! :)
This was perfect & lovely. Added a generous pinch of lemon zest too.
Easy and by far, best ever! No lumps or glommed up cheese. Just creamy sauce. Had my doubts about immersion blending but worked as shown.
I can’t believe I finally made a cacio e pepe that wasn’t clumpy and gross. I am inordinately pleased with myself.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
This was damn good! Definitely the best I have ever made! What a gift.
I believe that I followed the instructions fully, and cheese clumping wasn’t a problem, but the pasta cooled down way to a tepid temperature— even tho the mixing process was very brief and pasta came right from boiling water. Thoughts?
Sad that it took me four years to find the recipe! I made it today along with some grilled chicken. – Amazing dinner!!! Thanks heaps for providing me a new obsession!
This is genius! I have made this so many times and ended up with clumpy cheese! This is truly life changing! Thank you!!!
I have made this recipe like five times in the past two months since I discovered it here. It really works. Quick, simple, and really tasty. A lot of pepper and good-quality pasta really make the dish. Thank you it’s a keeper!
Made this in the food processor. It was so fast and easy! Thank you for another great recipe!
I made this with friends the other night. It is indeed FOOLPROOF. We were watching Stanley Tucci’s Finding Italy, and one chef said for the perfect cacio e pepe to use 70% Pecorino Romano and 30% Parmesan. I put that ratio to work with this recipe and it was incredible. Thank you for unlocking the key to this dish!
It worked! It worked! After so many failed attempts at cacio e pepe, I followed this technique exactly and it turned out perfect! Creamy, salty, peppery, so good!
I added some grated lemon peel, really enhanced already wonderful flavor.
THIS. Thank you! It worked perfectly, deliciously, and quickly for as a treat for my husband despite totally spacing out – actually tossing out – the pasta water, which I will repentantly include next time. Eye rolls made the family rounds…..but the whole family was happy. (When leftovers makes it into the packed-by-the-child-school-lunch the next day, it is a winner!)
I made this last night and OMG, it was so incredibly delicous that I can’t stop thinking about it and might have to make it again tonight. The method (making a paste with cold water) worked perfectly. Every strand of pasta was coated in a creamy, rich sauce. I would have been super happy to be served this at a fancy Italian restaurant. It was THAT good. Thanks for the recipe, Deb!
We are coming fresh pasta, usually eat a lot more so we use 12 ounces of fairly finally chopped broccoli to make it more substantial. I made a batch and a half of the sauce, putting big chunks of cheese in the food processor. Fest, easy, and delicious. Thank you!
I believe there is a typo above:
” And it works every time, which will I bet will a lot more often after today.”
I’m looking for Italian recipes to get my family excited for our upcoming travels to Italy. Thanks for this; can’t wait to try it.