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Following the family tree of Rome's classic, creamy pastas
Milk Street Bowtie Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe

20 minutes

Free

This classic Roman pasta dish depends on the quality of the pecorino Romano, a salty, hard sheep's milk cheese. The addition of cornstarch allowed us to overcome the tendency of lower quality cheese to clump, but for flavor we still suggest looking for imported pecorino.

1 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
6 ounces pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (3 cups), plus extra to serve
12 ounces linguini or spaghetti
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper, plus more to serve
Ingredients
  • cups water

  • 2

    teaspoons cornstarch

  • 6

    ounces pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (3 cups), plus extra to serve

  • 12

    ounces linguini or spaghetti

  • 2

    tablespoons kosher salt

  • 2

    teaspoons ground black pepper, plus more to serve

Cracking the Cheese Code

Milk Street Recipes

Cracking the Cheese Code

Directions
  1. 01
    In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, whisk the water and cornstarch until smooth. Add the pecorino and stir until evenly moistened. Set the pan over medium-low and cook, whisking constantly, until the cheese melts and the mixture comes to a gentle simmer and thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
    See Demo
  2. 02
    Stir the pasta and salt into the boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta very well. Return the pasta to the pot and let cool for about 1 minute.
  3. 03
    Pour the pecorino mixture over the pasta and toss with tongs until combined, then toss in the pepper. Let stand, tossing two or three times, until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 3 minutes. The pasta should be creamy but not loose. If needed, toss in reserved pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time to adjust the consistency. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl and serve, passing more pecorino and pepper on the side.  For Pasta Gricia: In a 10-inch skillet over medium, cook 3 ounces finely chopped pancetta until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a paper towel–lined plate; reserve 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat. Follow the recipe for cacio e pepe, whisking the fat into the pecorino mixture before setting it aside. Stir the cooked pancetta into the pasta along with the pepper. 
    See Demo
Tip: Don’t use pre-shredded cheese, even if it's true pecorino Romano. And grate it on the small holes of a box grater; larger shreds won’t melt. Don’t pour the pecorino mixture onto the piping-hot, just-drained pasta; letting the pasta cool for a minute or so ensures the mixture won’t break from overheating.
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Cacio e Pepe

Get Ready to Cook

4

Servings

20 minutes

Tip

Don’t use pre-shredded cheese, even if it's true pecorino Romano. And grate it on the small holes of a box grater; larger shreds won’t melt. Don’t pour the pecorino mixture onto the piping-hot, just-drained pasta; letting the pasta cool for a minute or so ensures the mixture won’t break from overheating.

Ingredients
  • cups water

  • 2

    teaspoons cornstarch

  • 6

    ounces pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (3 cups), plus extra to serve

  • 12

    ounces linguini or spaghetti

  • 2

    tablespoons kosher salt

  • 2

    teaspoons ground black pepper, plus more to serve

Cracking the Cheese Code

Milk Street Recipes

Cracking the Cheese Code

Step 1 of 3

Make the pecorino mixture

cups water
2
teaspoons cornstarch
6
ounces pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (1¼ cups), plus extra to serve

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, whisk the water and cornstarch until smooth.


Add the pecorino and stir until evenly moistened. Set the pan over medium-low and cook, whisking constantly, until the cheese melts and the mixture comes to a gentle simmer and thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Step 2 of 3

Cook the pasta

12
ounces linguini or spaghetti
2
tablespoons kosher salt

Stir the pasta and salt into the boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta very well. Return the pasta to the pot and let cool for about 1 minute.

Step 3 of 3

Toss and serve

2
teaspoons ground black pepper, plus more to serve

Pour the pecorino mixture over the pasta and toss with tongs until combined, then toss in the pepper. Let stand, tossing two or three times, until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 3 minutes.


The pasta should be creamy but not loose. If needed, toss in reserved pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time to adjust the consistency. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl and serve, passing more pecorino and pepper on the side. 


For Pasta Gricia: In a 10-inch skillet over medium, cook 3 ounces finely chopped pancetta until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a paper towel–lined plate; reserve 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat. Follow the recipe for cacio e pepe, whisking the fat into the pecorino mixture before setting it aside. Stir the cooked pancetta into the pasta along with the pepper. 

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