Cacio e Pepe

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Or “Anthony Bourdain Pasta”, as we call it in our house. Why do we call it that? We first became aquainted with this simple idea of spaghetti, cheese and pepper as a delicious main dish last year while watching the Rome episode of No Reservations. The segment can be seen in the video below beginning at 2:50 (or just watch the whole thing, you won’t be sorry).

Tony makes it seem simple enough – just pasta, pasta water, butter, cheese and pepper, but the coward in me needed a recipe or some sort of proportional guide. After Googling it, I was pleased to see that everyone’s favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen, had me covered.

I’ve made this dish, following SK’s recipe, probably 20 times. It is one of Jeff’s favorite meals and it is, by far, Marlo’s favorite. It’s my go-to meal when I’m getting low on fresh food, and this on the dinner table generally foreshadows a trip to the store. I always have the ingredients around, and I bet you do, too. Since there is really only three ingredients worth acknowledging, go ahead and try to make them the best quality you can accomplish. Spend the extra 80 cents to buy the good pasta. Go ahead and splurge and spend a dollar more on the cheese that says “Pecorino Romano” not just “Romano”. Break the bank. I dare you. And unless you’ve got some crazy arthritis, crack your pepper fresh, don’t you dare shake it out of a tin box.

I always serve it with something green, but if I had no shame I would just fill a giant bowl to the brim, call it supper and be happy (very happy). Too bad about that shame stuff.

Cacio e Pepe
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound dried spaghetti
2 tablespoons butter
4 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated *
1 1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
Salt (optional)

Cook spaghetti in well-salted water according to package directions. Drain spaghetti, reserving 1 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water.

Dry out your pot, then heat the olive oil over high heat until almost smoking. Add drained spaghetti and 1 cup of reserved pasta water (careful here, it will spatter ferociously).

Add butter, 3 ounces cheese and ground pepper and toss together with tongs. Taste, adding more pasta water, cheese, pepper or salt to taste.

Serve immediately, sprinkling with reserved cheese and and more black pepper.

* I’ll be honest, I don’t really measure the cheese. Just throw it in and quit when it looks “cheesy enough” for me. No reason why you can’t do the same.

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3 Responses to “Cacio e Pepe”


  1. 1 emmycooks February 7, 2012 at 2:29 am

    Yum. And yay for home cooking! That is better and faster than takeout any night.

  2. 2 kat February 7, 2012 at 3:43 am

    That looks amazing! I can’t believe it’s so simple and doesn’t require a lot of ingredients! The fancy name really threw me off lol 🙂

  3. 3 trialsinfood February 7, 2012 at 4:21 am

    Looks great! Sometimes simple is the best. One of my favorite pasta dishes is simply made with lemon, basil and Parmesan.


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