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What is Pasta Cacio e Pepe?

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Discover the Magic of Pasta Cacio e Pepe

What ingredients are used to make pasta cacio e pepe? Just two, and this classic Roman pasta dish is a testament to the fact that, with the right technique, even the simplest ingredients can create something truly magical for your palate. Made with just pecorino romano cheese, locally known as cacio, and freshly ground black pepper, or pepe, this historic dish may seem straightforward, but achieving the perfect result is far from easy.

Pasta cacio e pepe is one of the four iconic Roman pasta dishes, distinguished by its simplicity—only pecorino romano cheese and black pepper are used. Watch Foodie Sisters in Italy, Valeria and Benedetta, as they delve into the essence of this Roman classic and share what it takes to master the perfect cacio e pepe.


The pastures and farmland around Rome have historically been used for raising sheep and pigs, which explains the prominence of pecorino (sheep’s milk cheese) and cured pork products in Roman cuisine. In these self-sufficient shepherd villages, locals relied on their own produce, emphasizing simplicity and the use of local ingredients in their cooking.

Cacio e pepe originated out of necessity. Shepherds, traveling with their flocks, would carry a steady supply of pecorino romano, a sheep’s milk cheese aged for longevity and packed with nutrients. They would combine this with simple homemade pasta and black pepper for warmth, creating the basic elements of what we now enjoy as cacio e pepe.

Ingredients and Preparation

Creating an excellent cacio e pepe requires a balance of ingredients. High-quality pecorino, creamy with the right amount of saltiness, is mixed with a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper, enough to give the dish a slightly gray hue. In Rome, this dish is traditionally made with a fresh egg pasta called tonnarelli, but spaghetti can also be used for a similar result.

Once the pasta is cooked al dente, it is combined with the cheese and pepper, along with a few ladlefuls of the pasta’s starchy cooking water. This mixture is stirred vigorously to melt the cheese and form a smooth, creamy sauce that clings perfectly to the pasta.

The key to this dish lies in the final moments when the ingredients are combined. It’s crucial to avoid lumps, which can make the dish sticky and unpleasant. The process must be executed with care to achieve the ideal texture and flavor.

Experience the Best Cacio e Pepe in Rome

While many restaurants in Rome serve cacio e pepe, finding a truly exceptional one can be hit or miss. But when you do find it, we guarantee it will make you swoon.

To taste some of the best pasta cacio e pepe in Rome—and actually enjoy all four iconic Roman pastas in one meal—join our 4 Roman Pastas Tasting Tour.

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