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I was a skeptic, but now I'm a believer in this simple, unusual method. This is truly a no-fail recipe for the Italian classic pasta, Bucatini Cacio e Pepe.
If you've tried to make this dish in the traditional way and ended up with blobs of cheese and watery pasta, you're not alone (ahem). You'll see a lot of recipes that try to remedy this problem with oil, butter, cream or even cornstarch added to the sauce. But I'm here to promise you, there's an easier way.
Bucatini Cacio e Pepe Ingredients
- Bucatini Pasta: or other long, slender pasta like spaghetti or linguine
- Pecorino Romano: or parmesan cheese if you prefer
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper: lots of it!
What is Cacio e Pepe?
Cacio e Pepe, meaning "cheese and pepper" in Italian, is a classic pasta dish that originated in Rome. It's made with black pepper, grated Pecorino Romano cheese and long, slender pasta like spaghetti or, in this case, bucatini.
Making this dish traditionally means adding freshly boiled pasta to a bowl of grated pecorino and black pepper and stirring it together along with some of the hot, starchy pasta water. In theory, the heat melts the cheese and the starches of the cooking water bind the pepper and cheese to the pasta, creating a creamy sauce. This method does work, occasionally. But too often it doesn't.
The No-Fail Method
I wish I could claim credit for this no-fail method of making Bucatini Cacio e Pepe, but I heard it from Deb Perelman, who heard it from "Annie" that Elizabeth Minchilli had written about it and captured restaurateur Flavio de Maio demonstrating how to do it on video. Phew. So here's the method.
You simply whirl the pecorino cheese and black pepper in a food processor with some cold water to create a thick paste and toss that with hot pasta and cooking water (Flavio de Maio makes it with an immersion blender). The one thing I'm adding to the conversation is to create the sauce in the serving bowl, by stirring some of the hot, starchy pasta water into the cheese and pepper mixture, just a minute before adding the drained pasta. It makes this method even easier.
How to Make Bucatini Cacio e Pepe
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, combine pecorino Romano, black pepper and 5 tablespoons of cold water in a food processor and process until very smooth, scraping the sides as necessary.
While you cook bucatini according to package directions, transfer cheese mixture to a large serving bowl. With 1 minute left in the cooking time, scoop out ½ cup pasta water and add 3 tablespoons, one at a time, to the cheese mixture while quickly stirring until you have a smooth sauce.
Drain pasta and add to sauce in serving bowl; toss quickly to coat, adding more pasta water if necessary to loosen. Divide among 4 bowls; finish with more pecorino and black pepper and serve right away.
More Classic Italian Pasta Recipes
- Pasta Aglio e Olio
- Bucatini Carbonara
- Ragu Sauce
- Bucatini all Amatriciana
- Pasta alla Norma
- Shrimp fra Diavolo
Bucatini Cacio e Pepe
- 12 ounces dried bucatini pasta
- 5 ounces grated pecorino Romano plus more for serving
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper plus more for serving
- Bring a large pot of water to boil over medium-high heat.
- While the water comes to boil, combine pecorino Romano, black pepper and 5 tablespoons of cold water in a food processor and process until very smooth and thick, scraping down the sides as needed (add more cold water, 1 teaspoon at a time if needed). Scrape mixture into the bottom of a serving bowl (large enough to add and toss pasta).
- Add bucatini to boiling water and cook according to package directions until al dente.
- When the pasta has 1 minute left too cook, scoop out ½ cup of hot cooking water. Add 3 tablespoons of it, one at a time, to cheese mixture while stirring vigorously, until you have a thick, smooth sauce. Drain pasta and add immediately to sauce; again toss vigorously to coat the pasta, adding more cooking water, a little at a time, if needed to loosen the sauce. Divide between 4 pasta bowls and finish with more pecorino and black pepper. Serve immediately.