Cheesy, peppery bucatini cacio e pepe is richly flavored and creamy. This simple 4-ingredient pasta recipe is ready in under 30 minutes and perfect for any night of the week!
There is beauty in simplicity. Some of the best recipes are simple ones, and the ones that require few ingredients. This easy cacio e pepe recipe requires only four ingredients and is ready in under thirty minutes. Why is this pasta dish so good?
Cacio e pepe's rich, intense flavors come from sharp cheese and a heavy helping of freshly cracked pepper. Starchy pasta water helps the mixture cling to the noodles for a creamy pasta dish that you simply cannot get enough of. Thick, chewy bucatini pasta soaks up all of the creamy, dreamy sauce.
Like my bucatini pomodoro, this uncomplicated bucatini pasta recipe is perfect for any night of the week. This dish looks as good as it tastes.
What is Cacio e Pepe?
Cacio e pepe translates to "cheese and pepper", so it is no surprise that its flavor profile comes from Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper. This simple pasta dish originates from Rome. Pasta, typically spaghetti, mixes with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper. Hot, starchy pasta water melts the cheese and helps the pepper-cheese sauce cling to the noodles.
While the traditional recipe calls for only three ingredients, this variation has the addition of butter. Butter adds fatty richness and helps create an even more velvety sauce. Need more reason to make this iconic Italian pasta with cheese?
- Few Ingredients - As stated above, this simple recipe requires only four simple ingredients.
- Quick Recipe - Bucatini pasta with cheese and pepper is ready in under 30 minutes, making it the perfect meal for weeknight or weekend cooking.
- Foolproof - This beginner-friendly recipe could not be easier and has room for error.
- Crowd Pleaser Pasta - Everyone likes noodles and cheese. This peppery, cheesy classic is sure to satisfy all.
- Bucatini Pasta - Bucatini is a thick spaghetti-like pasta. The noodles are long and tube-shaped with a hole running down the center. This pasta shape is perfect for buttery sauces like this one.
- Pecorino Romano Cheese (finely grated) - Use freshly grated pecorino for the best consistency. Freshly grated melts more evenly.
- Coarse Black Pepper (freshly-cracked) - It is important to note that this recipe requires freshly-cracked coarse black pepper, not finely ground black pepper. This ingredient is a crucial component of the entire recipe.
- Butter (chopped) - Butter brings richness and fat to the flavor profile of this dish.
- Starchy Pasta Water (not-pictured)- Starchy water is the key ingredient that brings the whole dish together.
See the recipe card for the ingredient quantities.
STEP 1 (BOIL THE PASTA WATER) - Fill a large pot roughly half full with water and bring it to a rolling boil. Once boiling, generously season the water with salt (1 to 2 tablespoons). Add the bucatini pasta and cook it to just al dente. We want al dente pasta, but still firm. It will continue cooking as we create the sauce.
STEP 2 (BLOOM THE BLACK PEPPER) - While the pasta is boiling, melt the butter in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the black pepper and let it cook for about 30 seconds. Turn off the heat until the pasta is done cooking.
STEP 3 (TOSS THE PASTA TOGETHER) - Add the pasta directly to the pan with the melted butter and black pepper using a pair of large tongs. Add ¼ cup of starchy pasta water to the pan and toss everything together to coat. Add half of the cheese and the remaining ¼ cup of starchy pasta water. Continue tossing the pasta together until a creamy sauce forms. Stir in the remaining cheese until melted and combined.
Add additional starchy pasta water, if needed, one tablespoon at a time. Serve immediately with additional grated cheese and freshly-cracked black pepper.
- Bucatini Pasta - Spaghetti, Fettucini, Tagliolini, Cavatelli, Linguine
- Pecorino-Romano - Parmesan Cheese
- Butter - Olive Oil (use 2 tablespoons)
What to Serve with Bucatini Cacio e Pepe
While traditionally served as is, this simple pasta recipe pairs with almost any protein or vegetable thanks to its simplicity of ingredients and classic flavor profile. Serve bucatini cacio e pepe with cooked chicken or seafood, or stir in cooked bacon or pancetta. Toss in baby spinach at the end of cooking for added nutrients or top the pasta with sauteed garlic mushrooms.
Enjoy air fryer artichoke hearts alongside this dish or breaded chicken like these cracker-crusted chicken nuggets. If you are in need of an additional side of carbs, try this pasta with my easy garlic butter rolls.
- Cuisinart Nonstick-Hard-Anodized Large Skillet
- OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Tongs
- Electric Gravity Pepper Grinder
While best served immediately, transfer leftover pasta to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Other Delicious Pasta Recipes
- Easy Lemon Garlic Pasta
- 20-Minute Cherry Tomato Basil Pasta
- Baked Goat Cheese Pasta
- Easy Bolognese Sauce Recipe
- Spinach Pesto Pasta
- Use quality ingredients. This is a simple recipe with simple ingredients; use the good stuff.
- Use freshly cracked black pepper and freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese for the best flavor and texture.
- Reserve extra starchy pasta water for leftovers. Store the water in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Frequently Asked Questions
Parmesan cheese is made from cow's milk, while Pecorino Romano is made from sheep's milk. This milk variation plays a role in their different flavor profiles. Parmesan cheese is a little sweeter with a sutble nutty taste, while Pecorino Romano is saltier, and sharper in flavor.
There are two preferred methods for reheating cacio e pepe. First, you can microwave one serving with a splash of starchy pasta water until heated through. Second, reheat cacio e pepe in a large, lightly-greased skillet over medium-low heat. Add starchy pasta water, a tablespoon at a time, until the pasta rehydrates and becomes creamy. Cook until heated through.
Bucatini Cacio e Pepe
- 8 oz uncooked bucatini pasta
- 3 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon freshly-cracked coarse black pepper
- 2 oz finely-grated Pecorino Romano cheese plus more for garnish
- ½ cup hot, starchy pasta water plus more if needed
- Fill a large pot roughly half full with water and bring it to a rolling boil. Once boiling, generously season the water with salt (1 to 2 tablespoons). Add the bucatini pasta and cook it to just al dente. We want al dente pasta, but still firm. It will continue cooking as we create the sauce.
- While the pasta is boiling, melt the butter in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the black pepper and let it cook for about 30 seconds. Turn off the heat until the pasta is done cooking.
- Add the pasta directly to the pan with the melted butter and black pepper using a pair of large tongs. Add ¼ cup of starchy pasta water to the pan and toss everything together to coat. Add half of the cheese and the remaining ¼ cup of starchy pasta water. Continue tossing the pasta together until a creamy sauce forms. Stir in the remaining cheese until melted and combined.
- Add additional starchy pasta water, if needed, one tablespoon at a time. Serve immediately with additional grated cheese and freshly-cracked black pepper.
- This recipe makes 2-4 servings.
- Reserve extra starchy pasta water to reheat leftovers.