Spaghetti Cacio e pepe (Spaghetti with Black Pepper and Cheese) is a quick and easy meal that requires a only 5 ingredients and will be on your table in the time it takes to cook pasta. Plus, it tastes great!
If you regularly use the internet or even if you don’t, you’ve probably heard of Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe recently. I’ve seen it popping up all over social media, in cookbooks and at restaurants lately. But if you had asked me this time last year what cacio e pepe was, I probably couldn’t have told you. Or, maybe it’s only that I’ve been noticing it more lately after personally discovering how amazing it is.
If you haven’t heard of it, pasta cacio e pepe translates to pasta with cheese and pepper. It’s a Roman dish, and traditionally made with pecorino Romano cheese. I make mine with a good quality Parmesan, because that’s what I always have on hand, and it’s similar – the two are often substituted for each other in recipes. Just like any recipe that has very few ingredients, it is important that you use good quality ingredients – good quality pasta, olive oil and Parmesan. Have you ever tasted your olive oil on it’s own? Try it. If you don’t like the taste of it on it’s own, you probably shouldn’t be using it in your recipes. I like Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and I was surprised to learn that the organic olive oil is actually similarly priced to the conventional version.
And whatever you do, please don’t use pre-shredded Parmesan (even worse, the stuff that comes in a shaker). The shaker stuff has it’s place, or at least this is what my kids tell me – they love the stuff on pizza and otherwise plain pasta. Pre-shredded cheese (Parmesan and all other types), which you’ll usually find in bags in the dairy department, are tossed with cornstarch or another powdery substance (you may have read click-bait stories lately about cellulose or “wood pulp”) to prevent caking. While this isn’t harmful in any way, it does lead to a grainy texture when the cheese is melted. And there are very few instances of using pre-shredded cheese that doesn’t involve melting that I can think of. Please just spend the extra few minutes and shred your own. Even better, use a tool like your food processor or stand mixer to help you do the job if you need a lot of it (like you do in this recipe).
Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe
- 1 pound spaghetti (use gluten free spaghetti to make this recipe gluten free)
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to serve
- 3.5 ounces (100 grams) Parmesan cheese, finely shredded (about 1 1/3 cups), plus more to serve
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add enough salt so that it tastes fairly salty, like seawater. Add spaghetti to boiling water, and cook according to the directions on the package. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pepper and cook until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Add 3/4 cup of the reserved cooking water slowly (it will boil vigorously). Once all the water is added, stir it and let it boil for 30-60 more seconds. Add the cooked spaghetti and the shredded Parmesan, and toss until everything is evenly distributed (it is easiest to do this with tongs), adding a little more of the pasta water if needed to thin the sauce.
- Divide the spaghetti into individual bowls and top with additional Parmesan and black pepper.
Cacio e Pepe Nutrition Notes:
Serve this simple pasta dish with a simple green salad and vinaigrette to make a complete meal.