Cacio e Pepe

Editors at "Cook’s Illustrated"

"Cook’s Science: How to Unlock Flavor in 50 of Our Favorite Ingredients"

There are dozens of approaches to this simple dish that combine long, thin pasta with Pecorino Romano and freshly cracked black pepper, but it’s hard to find any that produce a creamy sauce without lumps of cheese.

High-quality ingredients are essential in this dish, most importantly imported Pecorino Romano. For a slightly less rich dish, substitute half-and-half for the heavy cream. Do not adjust the amount of water for cooking the pasta; the amount used is critical to the success of the recipe. Make sure to stir the pasta frequently while cooking so that it doesn’t stick to the pot. Draining the pasta water into the serving bowl warms the bowl and helps keep the dish hot until it is served. Letting the dish rest briefly before serving allows the sauce to thicken.


  • 6 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, 4 ounces grated fine and 2 ounces grated coarse 
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper


Place the finely grated Pecorino in medium bowl. Set a colander in a large bowl.

Bring 2 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Drain pasta into prepared colander, reserving cooking water. Pour 1 1/2 cups cooking water into a liquid measuring cup and discard remainder. Return drained pasta to now-empty bowl.

Slowly whisk 1 cup reserved cooking water into the finely grated Pecorino until smooth, then whisk in the heavy cream, oil, and pepper. Gradually pour the cheese mixture over the pasta and toss to combine. Let the pasta rest for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing frequently and adding remaining cooking water as needed to adjust consistency. Serve, passing coarsely grated Pecorino separately.

Excerpted from Cook’s Science: How to Unlock Flavor in 50 of Our Favorite Ingredients by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated (Cook’s Illustrated). Copyright © 2016. Photographs by Keller + Keller


4 to 6 servings