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Bucatini cacio e pepe spiraled inside a large blue serving bowl with a serving spoon inside and cheese crumbles around it.
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Bucatini Cacio e Pepe

Bucatini cacio e pepe is perfect as a family friendly weeknight meal or dressed up as a date night dinner. It is packed full of classic Italian flavor from freshly grated cheese and cracked pepper. With only 5 simple ingredients and less than 30 minutes of cook time, it's a quick and easy meal any day of the week! So creamy and delightful!
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Cost $15

Equipment

  • large pot

Ingredients

  • 12 to 16 ounces bucatini, spaghetti, linguine, capellini, or noodle of choice
  • 6 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper more or less depending on taste
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese grated with the finer shred grate

Optional Additions:

  • chicken, steak, shrimp, tofu, or protein of choice
  • spinach, asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, peas or vegetable of choice

Instructions

  • Fill a large pot with water and set it over medium heat on the stove. Once the water starts to boil, season it liberally with salt. Make sure to salt it well because this is where the pasta absorbs most of the flavor. 
  • Then, add the bucatini or noodle of choice. Cook the noodles about a minute less than the package instructions. 
  • While the pasta boils, prepare and cut any additional proteins or vegetables if you choose to include them.
  • Once the noodles are done cooking, reserve about a cup of the pasta water and then drain the rest. (If you forget to reserve the water, check out the tip below!)
  • In the empty pasta pot, melt the butter over medium-low to medium heat. Once the butter is almost completely melted, cook the protein/veggies until completely cooked through (optional) or skip right to adding the freshly grated pepper and lemon zest.
  • After the pepper and zest are added, allow them to incorporate and toast in the butter for about a minute. Then, add the pasta and a ½ cup of pasta water to the pot.
  • Reduce the heat to low, add the grated cheese, and gently stir until everything combines to coat the pasta in a smooth silky sauce. If the pasta seems too dry or sticky, add a bit more pasta water in small increments until you reach the consistency you desire.

Notes

  1. Lemon zest is not typically included in authentic cacio e pepe, but with the amount of butter and cheese, I felt that it’d help lighten it up and add a fresh quality to it. If you’d prefer to leave it out, it’ll taste just as delicious!
  2. I often like to combine a ½ cup pecorino romano and a ½ cup grana padano parmesan. However, to keep the ingredient list simple, I’ve only included the pecorino. The difference is subtle, so if you only want to buy one, I’d recommend just buying pecorino.
  3. 6 tablespoons of butter may seem like a lot, but it’s truly the perfect amount for a rich and creamy pasta sauce. However, if you’d like to lighten the dish a bit, you can use a combination of butter and olive oil instead.
  4. If you forgot to reserve pasta water before dumping it down the drain, there’s a quick trick you can follow to get the same great results! In place of the pasta water, add ¼ teaspoon cornstarch and ¼ teaspoon salt to 1 cup of water. Follow the instructions above and add half of the mixture to the pasta when it says to add the pasta water. You can add more in small increments to get the texture you desire.