Bucatini Cacio e Pepe: Authentic Foolproof Recipe
Cacio e Pepe, pronounced kah·chee·o ee peh·pee, has recently skyrocketed to fame in the United States. Ironically, it’s one of the oldest recipes in Roman Cuisine and even dates back to the Roman empire. The three simple ingredients: cheese, black pepper, and dried pasta were ideal for shepherds to transport. Cacio (cheese) e pepe (black pepper) simply translates to cheese and black pepper. However, it is understood that when ordering this famous Roman dish, it would be paste cacio e pepe, or cheese and black pepper pasta. Our traditional recipe for this classic roman dish uses bucatini pasta, so it’s Bucatini Cacio e Pepe. The best part— this foolproof Cacio e Pepe recipe is absolutely delicious and only takes about 30 minutes to make from start to finish!
Compared to the other 3 classic Roman pastas: Gricia (beef cheeks sauce), Amatriciana, and Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe is the most simplistic, but not necessarily the easiest to master. But guaranteed, if you visit Rome, it will be a dish you’ll want to make when you return, and our Bucatini Cacio e Pepe is the bomb!
Authentic Cacio e Pepe Recipe
This is an authentic Bucatini Cacio e Pepe recipe! Most of the recipes I see are definitely NOT authentic Cacio e Pepe recipes, and may more appropriately be called Italian Mac and Cheese. The traditional Cacio e Pepe pasta, cheese, and method for making this treasured Roman dish leave little room for reinvention. Although a creamy Cacio e Pepe does take some finesse, and would be easier if there was a Cacio e Pepe sauce, I like to stick to the real deal Roman recipe. And with these tips, you’ll find it’s not so hard after all. Here’s what you need for an authentic Cacio e Pepe ricetta (recipe).
Traditional Cacio e Pepe Pastas
If you want to know how to make Cacio e Pepe like a roman, the first step is to use a traditional Cacio e Pepe pasta which are bucatini, spaghetti, or tonnarelli. In the U.S., tonarelli cacio e pepe will be the most difficult to make as the pasta is harder to find. Personally, I prefer the thicker long pasta with a whole in the middle, so our authentic Cacio e Pepe recipe uses bucatini pasta. But spaghetti cacio e pepe will certainly still be delicious especially if that’s what’s in your pantry.
Traditional Cacio e Pepe Cheese
Traditional Roman recipes use ingredients from Rome or the surrounding region. So, the cheese to be used for authentic Cacio e Pepe recipes is either Pecorino Romano, Cacio de Roma, or a combination of these two Roman cheeses. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or Parm as we sometimes call it, comes from Parma in the foodie region of Emilia-Romagna. In the states, Pecorino Romano is readily available, so that is our cheese of choice for this Bucatini Cacio e Pepe recipe. Of course, if you cannot get that, or prefer Parm, it will make a good substitution.
No matter what, do not use pre-grated cheese. It will not melt or combine well, and your Cacio e Pepe pasta will most likely be lumpy.
Authentic Cacio e Pepe Recipe
Whether you’re making Cacio e Pepe Bucatini, spaghetti, or tonnarelli, the method is the same. There is no “Cacio e Pepe sauce” per se. And a Cacio e Pepe ricetta does not include butter, olive oil, or cream! That’s a dead giveaway that you are not using an authentic Cacio e Pepe recipe. When making true Roman Cacio e Pepe, the ingredients are combined in a way that makes the pasta creamy-saucy without making a separate sauce or using additional ingredients.
However, with the burst in popularity of pasta cacio de pepe, many restaurants even in Italy are making a separate sauce to use on everything from pizza to croquettes. But the best Cacio e Pepe Rome has to offer is still traditional Cacio e Pepe pasta.
Bucatini Cacio e Pepe Recipe
2 quarts water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
12 ounces bucatini pasta
7 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese
2 ½ teaspoons coarsely ground pepper
1. Bring water and salt to a boil.
2. Add bucatini pasta when water comes to a boil. It is important not to add additional water, as you want the water as starchy as possible. You can use a deep skillet, or use tongs if needed to bend the bucatini to get it under the water as soon as possible, and to stir it intermittently.
3. The key to successful authentic Cacio e Pepe: Grate the Pecorino as fine as you can by hand. If you can use a microplane, that is preferred. Since there is not a Cacio e Pepe sauce, the cheese needs to be very fine in order to melt properly. If you don’t have a microplane, use the smallest hole available. For best results, do not use pre-grated cheese and do not grate the cheese more than a half hour ahead of time.
4. Reserve a ½ cup of the pecorino and ½ teaspoon of black pepper and set each aside.
5. In a bowl, add the remaining pepper to the remaining cheese, lightly mix in, and set aside.
6. When the bucatini pasta is al dente, drain the pasta water into a large glass measuring cup, or bowl, keeping the bucatini in the pot on the burner. Don’t worry about the pasta being too wet.
7. Add 1 cup of the pasta water back to the bucatini, and sprinkle in half of the cheese and pepper mixture. Stir well and quickly with tongs so that the cheese becomes creamy, then add the remaining cheese and pepper and an additional ½ cup of pasta water.
8. If your pepper and cheese “sauce” begins to get lumpy, turn the heat on the lowest possible setting for a minute, keep stirring, and it should smooth out. Or you can add a little more water a couple of tablespoons at a time. Or both.
9. Transfer to a bowl, add remaining cheese and pepper as garnish, and serve immediately.
What to serve with Cacio e Pepe Pasta?
Whether it’s Bucatini or Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe, it’s still a Roman pasta dish, and the flavors pair especially well with many foods in Italian cuisine as well as French cuisine and even those of Mediterranean cuisine.
Bucatini Cacio e Pepe Side Dish
Since this Pecorino cheese and black pepper pasta can be pretty rich, it’s a good complement to plainer proteins like roasted chicken, or grilled fish or steak. If you want something a little more impressive, try it next to chicken or Fish Francaise or I love it next to Mediterranean lamb Chops.
Bucatini Cacio e Pepe Entrée
I can eat a plate of pasta with pepper and cheese any night of the week and be happy to call it dinner. However, I also love my veggies, so a side vegetable of roasted brussels sprouts or broccoli would be my top 2 choices. Or sometimes I serve Bucatini Cacio e Pepe with a simple salad like this cucumber, tomato, and onion, or when in season, this Strawberry Arugula Salad.
Paste Cacio e Pepe in Rome
If you are ordering Bucatini Cacio e Pepe in Rome, it is most likely going to be a primo piatto, a pasta course eaten before the main course. But if you’re a real pasta lover like me, don’t be afraid to order a pasta dish for your secondi too! Yes, I have done this many times, and no one ever minded!
Do you love authentic Cacio e Pepe? I’d love to hear where you’ve had it? How was is served? Have you made homemade Cacio e Pepe? Will you try this Bucatini Cacio e Pepe recipe? Let us know in the comments!