How to make spaghetti and cheese with black pepper

In Italian this dish sounds much more exotic. It’s called cacio e pepe which in English is just plain old cheese with black pepper. Although the ingredients may be plain and simple the taste is anything but. You will marvel that such luxury can be created from so little. It’s the perfect meal for this time of year because it is quick and filling and can easily be made using the ingredients in your cupboard. Just the sort of dish to turn to when it is so cold that you do not even want to leave the house to go to the shops.

Don’t try and add anything to this recipe. Its beauty is its simplicity. Anything more and it becomes something else entirely. However, in true Italian style the dish depends on is using the best quality ingredients you can. Buy the most expensive Parmesan cheese you can afford and make sure you use freshly cracked black pepper and your cacio e pepe will be worthy of any Italian table.

200g dried spaghetti
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup Parmesan finely grated
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt to taste
1. Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil and then cook the spaghetti until al dente or to the tooth.
2. Drain the spaghetti keeping aside 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water.
3. Dry the saucepan and put it back over a high heat adding the oil.
4. Once the olive oil is smoking hot add the drained spaghetti and cooking water quickly and jump back straight away as the water and oil will splash up and can burn.
5. Add most of the Parmesan, butter, black pepper and salt, by this time the water should mainly have evaporated so and take the spaghetti off the heat. Mix with a wooden spoon and the oil, water and cheese should come together to form a light sauce.
6. Sprinkle with the leftover Parmesan and some extra black pepper to serve.
Serves four.
If you liked this recipe you might be interested in this one for farfalle with peas and prosciutto or for simple Italian fare in London try the ultimate – The River Cafe.


  1. One of my favorite Roman dishes and oddly I’ve never thought of making it at home. Maybe I’ll change that tonight. Great point about not wanting to go out for groceries.

  2. I often make this when I’m too tired for any chopping of ingredients and just want to throw something together. Its amazing how gorgeous this dish tastes, as you say, nothing else should be done with it. I love it with loads of black pepper and you’ve inspired me to cook this for lunch! Great post.

  3. Never done it with pepper – but I will 🙂

    I make exactly the same but with fresh grated nutmeg instead and it’s gorgeous.

  4. Well done! I love cacio & Pepe, but try with Pecorino cheese next time!
    It’s another planet, trust me!

  5. Lovely simplicity! Nothing better than spaghetti with a simple dressing. My favourite is chilli, garlic and lashings or olive oil.

    I’m with Linguina on the Pecorino for this – yum!

  6. That’s fabulous! I have all of those ingredients in my fridge and pantry. Gotta love recipes that don’t require a shopping expedition 😀

  7. i looooove simple recipes like this and this one sounds divine. Why mess with the perfection?

  8. Ah… the essence of Italian food, really good ingredients prepared simply, it sounds like my perfect dinner alone.

  9. American in London – yes it is a Roman dish

    Jo Romero – hope your lunch went well

    Bron – nutmeg, interesting – will have to try that

    Linguina – I will try with Pecorino next time

    Graphic Foodie – as an Italian I am glad you approve

    Lorraine – I think everyone does which is the beauty of it

    Catty – I agree – best not to interfere

    Sarah – Yes perfect when cooking for one

  10. Browsing yesterday and I discovered your blog (love) and this recipe. I decided to give it a try last night. When I described it to my boyfriend, he was dubious (what? no meat?), but we both wolfed it down and couldn’t get over its simplicity utter deliciousness! Need more of these for my home repertoire. Thanks!

  11. This looks absolutely beautiful! Such perfect rainy day-food.

  12. London Lara – Thanks for the comment – my husband was also dubious (I call him meat and three veg as he thinks a good meal has to have all those elements) but he was converted!

    Swedish Meatball – Great for when you don’t want to leave the house.

  13. Great recipe – I’m sure it’ll come in handy when it’s winter, I have a crying baby and I’m hungry!

  14. Rummaging through empty fridge in despair this evening when I remembered this recipe. What a lifesaver. Simple, easy and delicious! Thanks so much.

  15. Jetsetting Joyce – you will love this one – great comfort food!

    Anon – so glad it worked for you

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