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Bucatini Cacio e Pepe Recipe

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I’ve wanted to learn how to make cacio e pepe for a long time. It’s simple, yet a little overwhelming as sometimes such simple recipes don’t leave much room for error. But bucatini cacio e pepe is the type of recipe that once you’ve made it a few times, it will become a favorite. You don’t need many ingredients, it’s ready in 20 minutes, and tastes SO good. Much like my bay scallop linguine recipe, this cacio e pepe pasta is worthy of a date night at home, but is also incredibly simple to make.

I’m going to walk you through the steps and share some tips. So let’s give this easy cacio e pepe bucatini a try! And if you’re looking for other date-night-at-home recipes, try my air fryer lobster or air fryer salmon.

Close up of bucatini cacio e pepe pasta with fresh pepper

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Bucatini Cacio e Pepe Video

What Is Bucatini Cacio e Pepe?

Cacio e pepe literally translates to cheese and pasta. And that’s exactly what it is! Pasta is coated with a smooth and creamy cheese sauce and plenty of freshly ground pepper. I liken it to mac & cheese for adults – it’s the type of meal that can be thrown together in 20 minutes, and is made with just a handful of ingredients that you probably have on-hand.

It’s one of Italy’s oldest pasta dishes and for good reason – it’s hearty, it’s easy, and it’s made with just a few ingredients.

Plate of cacio e pepe pasta swirls with parsley garnish

What You’ll Love About Bucatini Cacio e Pepe

  • Smooth and creamy flavor
  • Chewy pasta
  • A little spice
  • Made in 20 minutes
  • Made with just 4 ingredients
  • Great pantry meal, but also fancy enough for a nice meal

Cacio e Pepe Pasta Ingredients

This recipe for cacio e pepe is made up of just 4 simple ingredients:

  • Bucatini Pasta – Pasta for cacio e pepe varies, but I’ve used bucatini and love how the sauce clings to the thick noodles.
  • Butter – Use a high quality butter for best flavor.
  • Black Pepper – Because you want fresh pepper and bigger pieces of pepper, you’ll need to use freshly ground.
  • Pecorino Romano Cheese – This is a must for authentic cacio e pepe. I originally assumed it was made with Parmesan, but it’s not!
Ingredients for cacio e pepe pasta

How to Make Cacio e Pepe

While this bucatini alla cacio e pepe has an important method, don’t let it overwhelm you, it’s simple! Here’s how we make it:

  • Shred cheese. If you’re cheese isn’t shredded yet, start here as the sauce comes together really quickly. Use a microplane zester or small shredder as you want airy shreds of cheese so it can easily melt into the sauce.
  • Cook pasta. In a large pot of water, boil bucatini according to al dente directions, but take out 2 minutes early as we’re going to finish cooking it in the cacio e pepe sauce. (Salt your cooking water!)
  • Reserve pasta water. YOU MUST RESERVE 2 CUPS OF THE PASTA WATER before you drain the pasta.

TIP: The pasta water is a starchy liquid that is sort of magic when it comes to the best pasta. The starches helps thicken the sauce, but it also helps emulsify butter and oil-based sauces.

  • Toast pepper. Melt butter in a large skillet. When it foams, add freshly ground pepper and toast the pepper while swirling the pan.
Toasting pepper in skillet for cacio e pepe
  • Mix sauce. Add 1 cup of the cooking liquid along with the rest of the butter to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, add pasta to skillet. Start sprinkling in Pecorino Romano cheese, stirring and tossing mixture with tongs until the sauce is smooth. Add more pasta water if pasta mixture feels dry.
Sauce for bucatini cacio e pepe recipe
  • Serve. Serve black pepper pasta in pasta bowls with additional shredded cheese and pepper to taste.
Cheese and pepper pasta in skillet

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you pronounce cacio e pepe?

I’m not going to lie, cacio e pepe pronunciation was REALLY hard for me! It took a ton of practice. (I’m serious.)

Phonetically, it’s pronounced [kaˈtʃo e ˈpeːpe] but I think it’s best to listen to the pronunciation here.

What does cacio e pepe mean?

Cacio e pepe means cheese and pasta.

What pasta to use for cacio e pepe?

Long noodles work best for cacio e pepe. I’m partial to bucatini, as I’ve used here as they are thick and chewy, but you could also use spaghetti, linguine, or fettuccine.

Can I use Parmesan cheese for cacio e pepe?

You can use Parmesan cheese in cacio e pepe pasta ….but Pecorino Romano is the traditional cheese and is preferred as it has a stronger flavor. I tried both and while Parmesan will work, we liked it better with Pecorino Romano.

Why is my cheese clumping?

There are a few things you can do to ensure your cacio e pepe doesn’t end up clumpy:

  • Cheese shreds are too big – Using a microplane zester is recommended as it has will create very fine shredded cheese. This is also why you have to grate it yourself. Pre-grated cheese is much too large.
  • Don’t add all the cheese at the same time – Sprinkle in the cheese to pasta mixture and mix in until combined before adding another handful.
  • Keep mixing – Toss pasta and cheese sauce mixture until it’s smooth.
  • Turn down heat – If the pasta water mixture is TOO hot, it can cause the cheese to seize.
Plate of cacio e pepe pasta

Storage Instructions

Cacio e pepe is best eaten fresh. If you have leftovers (I doubt this, ha!), store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

How to reheat

Reheat in a skillet for best results. The cheese sauce may be a bit clumpy, but it will still taste great.

Can you freeze cacio e pepe pasta?

Freezing cacio e pepe is not recommended as the cheese sauce will get clumpy during freezing and thawing process.

Platter of cacio e pepe pasta swirls

What to Serve with Cacio e Pepe Recipe

Wondering what to serve with cacio e pepe? It’s usually the type of meal I serve on its own, but if you want to include a side, I’d serve it with veggies or salad:

More Easy Pasta Recipes

If you like this bucatini cacio e pepe recipe, you might also like some of these other easy pasta recipes:

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Close up of bucatini cacio e pepe pasta with fresh pepper

Bucatini Cacio e Pepe Recipe

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Description

Learn how to make bucatini cacio e pepe pasta! I’m sharing helpful tips and a step-by-step guide so your cacio e pepe turns out perfectly.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 12 oz. bucatini pasta
  • 1/4 cup butter, divided
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 
  • 2 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • black pepper and pecorino for serving

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions, but take out 2 minutes before it’s done. RESERVE 2 cups of pasta water.
  2. Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet. Add freshly ground pepper and toast until fragrant, swirling pan, for about 1 minute.
  3. Add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water and remaining 2 tablespoons butter to skillet and simmer. Reduce heat to low and add pasta to the skillet. Sprinkle in Pecorino romano cheese, stirring and tossing mixture together with tongs, until a smooth sauce forms. Add more reserved pasta water if mixture seems dry.
  4. Serve with additional cheese and black pepper to taste. 


Keywords: bucatini cacio e pepe, how to make cacio e pepe, cacio e pepe pasta, cacio e pepe recipe

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Photo Credit: All photos in this post were take by Loren at Sweet Rustic Bakes


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