Recipes

foolproof cacio e pepe

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.


all you need

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.

with a fp, you can also grind the cheese
a paste of cold water, cheese, and pepper
collect your pasta water before you drain your pasta

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.

piping hot pasta
add sauce base to taste

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.

toss and loosen with pasta cooking water
foolproof cacio e pepe

* 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.

Previously

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

Here’s the magic of this technique: The recipe sticks to the 3-ingrdient-only premise, but it begins the sauce with cold water, forming the cheese and pepper into a thick, paste-like sauce, without any of the separated, gloppy cheese risk that can happen with pasta cooking water. No heat touches the sauce until it hits the piping hot pasta, so it melts only onto the noodles. At this point, you use spoonfuls of cooking water as needed to loosen it to a thick but lightly creamy consistency. And it works every time, which will I bet will a lot more often after today.

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

Bring a pot of well-salted water to boil. Cook pasta to one minute shy of package instructions and taste for your desired doneness, cooking a minute longer if needed. We are not cooking the pasta and sauce further together on the stove, so the bite it has now is about what your final dish will.

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.


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178 comments on foolproof cacio e pepe

  1. JP

    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!

      1. JP

        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.

        1. Sally

          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.

          1. JP

            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.

    1. Maxine Catalano

      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.

  2. Kim

    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!

  3. 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.

  4. Deanna

    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.

  5. Brooke

    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.

  6. Holly

    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!!!

    1. minchilli

      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

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. Kate

    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?

    1. deb

      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.

    2. Anna

      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.

    3. kingsinger

      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.

  10. MissAndi

    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!

  11. Clayton Wilder

    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.”

      1. deb

        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.

  12. Pam

    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. ☹️

    1. Cat

      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.”

  13. irishjenn

    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?

    1. minchilli

      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.

  14. Charlotte in Toronto

    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.

    1. Julie Gordon

      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…

  15. geekgirl

    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.

  16. Julie

    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!

    1. deb

      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.

  17. heartflood

    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!

    1. kingsinger

      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.

  18. Drew M

    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! :)

  19. Billie

    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.

    1. sinaasappeljetzt

      Exactly!
      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!
      Sina

  20. Michaela

    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 :)

  21. Sarah

    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.

  22. Dan

    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).

    1. sinaasappeljetzt

      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…

  23. May Carr

    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!

  24. minchilli

    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!!)

  25. vanessakf

    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

  26. jeanvram

    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.

    1. deb

      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.

  27. met0813

    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…

  28. Jonathan

    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.

  29. Sudie

    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!

  30. 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!

  31. Emily

    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!

      1. Sadie

        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?

  32. Melissa K

    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!

  33. Stephanie

    This was magic- so delicious! I actually made it with Trader Joe’s yellow lentil and brown rice spaghetti and it came out awesome!

  34. Hillary

    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.

  35. Erin Yates

    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!

  36. Sheryll

    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.

  37. 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. 😂

    1. deb

      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!

    2. Teresa

      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 :-)

  38. libbsalot

    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.

  39. Al

    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….

    1. deb

      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. :)

  40. 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!

  41. Kelly

    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).

  42. Volleen

    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)

  43. Lynne

    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.

  44. Annie

    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.

  45. Laura

    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!

    1. Cris S.

      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.

    2. deb

      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.

  46. Jeff Winett

    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.

  47. Jami

    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!

  48. Cris S.

    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.

    1. Cris S.

      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.

      1. deb

        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).

        1. Cris S.

          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.

  49. andrew

    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!

  50. Abby

    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!

  51. Em

    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!!

    1. Jeff Winett

      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 :)

  52. Alice

    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!

  53. Marcie

    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 :(

    1. deb

      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.

  54. Ben

    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!

  55. 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.

  56. Monica

    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.

  57. 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!

  58. huntingwithmorels

    Argh! :(

    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.

  59. Abby

    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!

  60. Cynthia

    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.

  61. Jennifer

    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.

  62. emilyfrances5

    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.

    1. jess

      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.

  63. Zoe

    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!

  64. Emily

    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.

  65. 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 :)

  66. Suzzanne

    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!

  67. Sara

    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.

  68. Laura

    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!

  69. Michelle

    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. :(

  70. anne

    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!

  71. Mo

    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.

  72. tei

    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?

    1. tei

      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.

  73. 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!

  74. duchessbranwyn

    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…

  75. Marja

    Hola Deb,

    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

  76. kingsinger

    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.

  77. danmarkovitz

    OMFG.

    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.

  78. mariadax

    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!

  79. Molly

    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!

  80. Mary

    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

  81. Kate

    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.

  82. FizzyBlonde

    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.

  83. Bonnie

    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!

  84. Molly K

    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.

  85. Kathy

    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.

  86. Sara

    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!

  87. 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 :)

  88. Max

    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.

  89. Nicole

    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!