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Cacio e pepe is a classic pasta dish with a sharp peppery flavor, and rich, salty cheese. It only uses a few ingredients, but its simplicity makes it one of my favorites. 

A bowl filled with cacio e pepe, topped with parmesan cheese nad black pepper, next to a fork, on top of a placemat.
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Cacio e pepe is one of my go-to Italian dishes. This cheesy, peppery recipe hits the spot almost anytime that I’m craving pasta. It’s a simple dish that only uses five household ingredients. Like so many Italian recipes, the simplicity of cacio e pepe is part of what makes it so good. Who needs a million different ingredients when you have a few simple ones that mesh together perfectly? 

This is also a go-to weekday meal in my house, because it only takes 20 minutes to make. It’s rich, spicy, quick, and easy. What more could you ask for? 

What Makes Cacio e Pepe So Good?

The main thing that makes cacio e pepe so good is that the flavors go together so well. The pasta is seasoned with two ingredients: black pepper and parmesan cheese. The spicy bite of pepper pairs perfectly with the rich, creamy, saltiness of the parmesan. It’s a match made in heaven. 

Cacio e pepe is one of the four classic Roman pasta dishes, and it’s not hard to see why. 

Recipe Ingredients

Here are the ingredients you need to make this recipe at home. Scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of the page to see the specific quantities for each ingredient. 

  • Dried pasta – This dish is traditionally made with spaghetti, but you could make it with other types of pasta if you wanted. 
  • Butter – Use unsalted butter for this recipe. 
  • Parmesan cheese – You can use freshly-grated parmesan cheese, or pre-grated cheese. 
  • Ground black pepper
  • Salt
Close up of a bowl of cacio e pepe, topped with parmesan cheese and black pepper.

How to Make Cacio e Pepe

This Italian dish is so quick and easy to make. There are only a few steps, and they’re very easy to follow.

  • Cook the pasta. Bring water to boil in a pot, and cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. When the pasta is done cooking, drain it. 
  • Add the butter. Put the pasta in a bowl, and add the butter in pieces. 
  • Add the seasonings. Add the pepper and parmesan cheese to the bowl, and stir to combine.
  • Adjust. Taste the pasta and add salt if necessary, then serve hot. Top the pasta with more pepper and cheese. 

Tips for a Perfect Plate of Pasta

Here are some tricks and tips for making this Italian pasta be a show stopping dish. 

  • Use fresh pepper. There’s a big taste difference between freshly-ground black pepper and pre-ground pepper. For a lot of recipes you can’t tell the difference, but when pepper is the star of the dish, the flavor is noticeable. Freshly-ground black pepper has a stronger bite, and a more floral taste. 
  • Use good cheese. One of my favorite things about this recipe is that it tastes amazing even if you use cheap, pre-grated parmesan cheese. But if you really want to make the best version of this cacio e pepe, freshly grate a nice quality parmesan.
  • Salt the pasta water. When cooking the pasta, add a good amount of salt to the water. That way the pasta will be seasoned all the way through, instead of just with the sauce.
  • Reserve some pasta water. Before draining your pasta, reserve some of the water it was cooked in. Then, if your pasta is a little dry or gummy, add a some of the water to the mixing bowl. This will help the mixture emulsify. 
  • Use butter at the right temperature. The key to getting a perfectly glossy sauce is using the right temperature butter. If your butter is too cold, it will cool off the spaghetti too quickly, and keep the sauce from developing. If your butter’s too soft, it will fully melt when it touches the pasta, and the cacio e pepe sauce will be watery. For the perfect sauce, leave the butter in the fridge until you start making the meal. Then take the butter out of the fridge. By the time the pasta has cooked, the butter will be the perfect temperature for this Italian dish.
A bowl of cacio e pepe topped with parmesan cheese and black pepper, next to a fork.

Common Questions

Here are the answers to some common questions about this pasta dish. 

What does cacio e pepe mean in Italian?
This dish is very simple, and so is the name. Cacio e pepe translates to “cheese and pepper.” That’s a pretty accurate name! 

What does cacio e pepe taste like?
Cacio e pepe is a brilliant blend of richness and spiciness. It has the bite of black pepper, but it’s balanced by rich, creamy butter, and salty, smooth cheese. It’s not too spicy, but it does have a nice kick. 

Is cacio e pepe the same as Alfredo?
No, there’s a difference between cacio e pepe and Alfredo sauce. A traditional Alfredo is butter and cheese, but doesn’t have pepper like cacio e pepe does. The kind of Alfredo that you’ll find in a jar in the store has a large amount of cream, which isn’t in cacio e pepe. 

Close up of a fork wrapped with cacio e pepe spaghetti, covered in ground pepper and parmesan cheese.

Serving Suggestions

Because cacio e pepe is a pasta dish, I like to serve it with some classic Italian sides. Here are a few of my favorite things to serve this recipe with. 

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days. To reheat, add a little water to the pasta, and cook on the stove over medium heat, stirring constantly. You can also reheat in the microwave.

If you want to freeze the pasta, you can keep it in an airtight container in the freezer for 3 months. Defrost the pasta before reheating.

More Pasta Dinner Ideas

Hopefully you loved this cacio e pepe. If so, make sure to check out some of my other favorite pasta dishes. 

4 from 2 votes

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e pepe is a traditional Italian pasta seasoned with black pepper and parmesan cheese. It's rich, spicy, and takes only 20 minutes to make.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 1 pound (454 g) dried spaghetti pasta
  • 3 tablespoon (42 g) unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • ½ cup (50 g) Parmesan cheese + more for topping, (can either be freshly grated or the green jar kind)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper + more for topping
  • Salt, to taste
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  • In a large stockpot, boil water and cook spaghetti according to directions on box.
  • Remove and drain well. Put pasta in a large bowl and place pads of butter on top and toss to melt.
  • Toss with Parmesan cheese, ground black pepper, and salt (to taste).
  • Serve and enjoy!


Store the cacio e pepe in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. To reheat, add a little water and cook on the stove over medium heat. You can freeze the pasta for up to 3 months in an airtight container. 


Serving: 0.25of recipe, Calories: 531kcal, Carbohydrates: 83g, Protein: 19g, Fat: 15g, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 4g

This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.

The default measuring system for this website is US Customary. Unit conversions are provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. While we strive to provide accurate unit conversions, please be aware that there may be some discrepancies.

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  1. When we were kids many yrs ago, our Yiayia (greek grandma) would make this for us often. She would slightly burn the butter and then toss the pasta in the pan. Often she would grate fresh mitztra (a hard greek cheese. Sooo delish. We called it peasant food back then bc it was so inexpensive to make. You conjured up old memories. I can still smell the nutty scent of burnt butter.

    1. Aww that’s such a sweet memory, Linda. I’m so glad I could help bring back some of those memories. xoxo

  2. New follower here, LOVE your recipes, and this pasta is no exception.
    I started sleeping with a sleep mask about a year ago when insomnia was at its worst during my pregnancy. The one I bought is and in my opinion, the absolute best there is, it never slides off my face! But it definitely took a few days to get used to it. I love it so much that I’ve gifted it to both my parents and in-laws. The only downside is that I freak out if I can’t find it when I’m getting ready to go to sleep. Haha. I’m way too dependent on it now.
    Anyway, looking forward to trying more of your recipes!

    1. I love that the sleep mask you showed me has an adjustable strap! Sleep masks are the best and I’m glad you found my blog!

  3. The recipe is great, I have to add the shredded though. I cannot do the green shaker can, oh no it is beyond nasty to my taste buds that is only one of the three ingredients that I won’t eat. About the sleep mask! Home run I have worn one for so many years traveling especially staying at friends and family who have an outside light in the yard that always seems to find it’s way into my room. I live where there is NO street light for almost five miles. I don’t like them and when I built my house the power company wanted to know if I wanted or where actually I wanted my outdoor light and I said absolutely not. When I go to bed I want it dark. I think that is how I got to wearing the sleep mask but it never bothered me at all. I would wake up and it was right there. I love them. I worked night shift for a long time and so I always wore one during the day so I could sleep. If not I could not shut my eyes. Anyone who hasn’t tried one should I don’t know of anyone around me that had any problems adjusting to them. For some reason they don’t seem to bother you or it is because you have a deeper REM sleep. Love your blog!!!

  4. I’ve never tried a sleep mask but if I know I would def take mine off in the middle of the night.

    This looks amazing, sometimes you just need some old school comforts of the powdery green shaker of parm. I like to pick up some ragu too when I am feeling nostalgic :)

  5. How am I just finding out about this?!!? Ummm, dinner tonight. We’re the same with the processed cheese- as inconvenient as it is to spread, it just tastes so much better. Oh, and I totally grated my finger and thumb nail just this week. No blood, but a broken nail is upsetting!

  6. Ahhh.. the simple things in life :) This is basically where the idea of ‘Alfredo’ sauce came from.. buttery cheesey pasta for epic mealtimes :)

  7. I am off to Australia in April and while its not 19 hours it is around 15, last time I slept the first 8 hours cuz I didn’t really sleep the two nights before. But the remaining 7 hours I could not get back to sleep so I just might order this mask as well!! Glad to hear its working for you at home! And this pasta, so simple but so right! I can see why you made it three times ;)

  8. my son gave me a eye mask for our trip to Thailand. It really helped a lot. We also had noise canceling headphones which are great. I would also suggest a blanket and heavy socks. The plane got quite cold and it’s more comfortable to take off your shoes.

  9. Butter and parmesan pasta was my favorite as a kid, but I haven’t had the simple combo in years. Now that I know it has a fancy name, the adult in me is gonna indulge – ha! Thanks for sharing this easy and delicious recipe, Julie! Hope you’re having a great day.