How to make a real cacio e pepe

Cacio e pepe, cheese and pepper is an institution of Rome. It represents the popular soul of city that despite being majestic is also rich of hidden treasures. Very popular throughout Italy, this dish is one of the most famous first courses, along with carbonara, gricia and amatriciana. It’s very simple: about the preparation you need also less ingredients than the others. Dozens of versions, openly revisited or original, abound in the city… but you can only try the real cacio e pepe in Rome.

A little bit of history: italian cacio & pepe

The history of this dish, symbol of Romanity, is born among the pastures during transhumance. During the long movements of the flock, the shepherds of the Roman agro filled the bag with calories and long-term food. There were a few slices of pecorino cheese, a bag of black peppercorns and a good quantity of dried spaghetti. These last three ingredients were chosen for a specific reason. The black pepper, in fact, directly stimulates the receptors of heat. Furthermore, helped the shepherds to protect themselves from the cold. The aged pecorino cheese is preserved for a long time and the pasta guaranteed the right amount of carbohydrates and calories.

From countryside to Roman taverns, it quickly spread across Italy. In the 18th century, cheese-seasoned pasta was common throughout the country. In his Journey to Italy, Goethe described Neapolitan cuisine, noting: “Macaroni are cooked simply in water and grated cheese is used for flavor.

According to the tradition, the hosts of that time were careful to serve a cheese and pepper “dry” in order to promote business. The dish, in fact, had to “intorzare” (force), as the Romans said, so that customers needed wine to swallow the pasta. So… more Cacio e pepe they ate, more wine they drank.

The secret of this eternal dish in Rome

Over the centuries the original recipe has been perfected. There are several variations, from the type of pasta, ranging from classic spaghetti up to rigatoni, to the method of preparation. Every tavern in Rome and surroundings, however, will assure you that its dish is the “real Cacio e Pepe“. The secret of Cacio e pepe lies both in the ingredients and in the skill of the chef in preparing it. Essential for this typical dish of poor Roman cuisine is the creaming of the ingredients to obtain the notorious cream.

The right balance between cheese and cooking water is anything but simple. In order to form a cream, it’s necessary to add the right amount of cooking water alternating it with the pecorino cheese to obtain a good consistency.

Remember that the original recipe does not require the use of oil, butter, cream to make the cheese cream.

Few ingredients, lots of flavor

400 g spaghetti

200 g grated pecorino cheese

10 g black pepper


Preparing time 15 min

Cooking time 10 min

Serves 4

How to make a delicious cacio e pepe

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente according to the package instructions.
  2. While the spaghetti is cooking, in a large mixing bowl, combine the grated Pecorino Romano cheese and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Once the spaghetti cooks, reserve about 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the spaghetti.
  4. Immediately transfer the drained spaghetti to the mixing bowl with the cheese and pepper mixture. Toss well to coat the spaghetti evenly.
  5. Gradually add the reserved pasta water to the spaghetti while tossing continuously until a creamy sauce forms and coats the spaghetti thoroughly. Adjust the amount of pasta water as needed to achieve the desired consistency.
  6. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt if necessary.
  7. Serve the cacio e pepe immediately, garnished with additional grated Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper if desired. Enjoy!

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