Cacio e Pepe

Hey there, golf enthusiasts and foodies alike! Whether you just aced a hole-in-one or are craving a classic Italian dish, this article is for you. Today, we’re taking a delicious detour from the fairway to explore the world of cacio e pepe, a seemingly simple pasta dish that’s packed with flavor.

But first, things got a little interesting in the crossword world yesterday (March 27th, 2024). The New York Times Mini had a clue: “Where cacio e pepe is a signature dish.” Stumped? The answer, of course, is Rome.

This little crossword clue sparked some curiosity, and that’s where we come in. If you’re wondering what exactly cacio e pepe is, or why it’s associated with Rome, keep reading! We’ll delve into the history, and the magic of the dish, and even answer some burning questions about making this cheesy delight at home.

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe: A Culinary Classic

Cacio e Pepe translates literally to “cheese and pepper” – a name that perfectly captures the essence of this dish. It features pasta coated in a luxurious, creamy sauce made with just three ingredients: Pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper, and starchy pasta water.

Despite its simplicity, cacio e pepe is a true testament to the power of high-quality ingredients and culinary technique. The combination of salty Pecorino Romano, pungent black pepper, and the silky texture of the pasta creates a dish that’s both comforting and incredibly satisfying.

A Roman Romance

Cacio e Pepe is deeply rooted in Roman cuisine. Its origins are believed to be humble, a dish enjoyed by shepherds and farmers who used readily available ingredients.

Over time, cacio e pepe found its way onto restaurant menus, becoming a beloved staple in traditional Roman trattorias. Today, it remains a cherished dish, a symbol of Roman culinary heritage.

Why is Cacio e Pepe Special?

There are several reasons why cacio e pepe has captured hearts (and stomachs) around the world:

  • Simplicity: With just three ingredients, it’s a dish anyone can make at home.
  • Versatility: While delicious on its own, cacio e pepe can be dressed up with additional ingredients like pancetta, sausage, or even truffle oil.
  • Flavor Power: The combination of sharp cheese and bold pepper creates an addictive taste profile.
  • Texture Bliss: When made correctly, the sauce becomes incredibly smooth and creamy, clinging perfectly to the pasta.

Unlocking the Secrets of Cacio e Pepe

Now that you’re hungry for a taste of Rome, let’s explore the secrets to crafting the perfect cacio e Pepe:


  • High-quality dried pasta (traditionally tonnarelli, but spaghetti or bucatini work well)
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
  • Salt (optional)

Tips and Techniques:

  • Don’t Overcook the Pasta: Aim for al dente, which means “to the tooth.” The pasta should have a slight bite to it. This is crucial for creating a silky sauce.
  • Reserve the Pasta Water: This starchy water is gold when it comes to creating a creamy sauce. Don’t throw it out!
  • Grate Your Cheese: Freshly grated cheese makes a world of difference in terms of flavor and texture.
  • Use the Right Heat: Low heat is key when adding cheese to the pasta. This helps prevent it from clumping or separating.
  • Emulsify the Sauce: The star of cacio e pepe is the velvety sauce. To achieve this, vigorously whisk the cheese, starchy pasta water, and pepper together until a smooth, creamy emulsion forms.
  • Season to Taste: While Pecorino Romano is naturally salty, you may want to add a pinch of salt at the end. However, go easy – the cheese does most of the heavy lifting.
Credit: Chef Jean-Pierre

FAQs: Your Cacio e Pepe Conundrums Solved

  • Can I use Parmesan cheese instead of Pecorino Romano?

Technically, yes. However, Pecorino Romano has a sharper, saltier flavor that complements the dish much better. Parmesan can result in a slightly sweeter sauce.

  • My sauce is grainy! What went wrong?

There are two main culprits: overcooked pasta and using pre-grated cheese. Overcooked pasta releases too much starch, leading to a thick, gluey sauce. Pre-grated cheese often contains anti-caking agents that can prevent smooth emulsification.

By Lana

Lana Lana has been swinging a golf club for close to 30 years. After playing Division 1 College golf, she went on to turn professional and coach hundreds of golfers to become better players. Lana lives in Savannah, GA, with her husband and two young children and continues to write, teach, and learn about golf daily. As a scratch golfer, Lana has actionable tips and advice to help you take your game to the next level without over complicating it.

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