Alton Brown's Cacio e Pepe

A simple pasta dish made with starchy pasta water, cheese, oil, and lots of pepper. The recipe was created by Alton Brown. I did cut the peeper in half because my wife and I thought it was pretty strong and I read reviews online saying the same.  I have written the instructions in my own words. 

Servings 4 people
Author Alton Brown


  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground peppercorns black, white, or red
  • 3 1/2 ounces Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • 1 1/2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 - 1 cup starchy pasta water


  1. Combine pasta and salt in a high sided saute pan.

  2. Add enough cold water to cover the pasta. Cover the pan if you have a lid. Bring to a boil over high heat.

  3. When water reaches a boil, remove the lid and stir with a pair of tongs.

  4. Decrease the heat to medium.  Make sure the pasta remains submerged. Only add more water if the pan looks dry. 

  5. While pasta is cooking, in a large mixing bowl combine the pepper, olive oil, and both cheeses. You can save a little bit of these cheese if you want for topping of the pasta at the end. 

  6. Combine the ingredients until they form a thick paste and set aside. 

  7. After 5 minutes of simmering, ladle a cup of the water into a measuring cup. 

  8. Start with a 3/4 cup and slowly drizzle the bowl with the cheese. Combine until smooth. If too clumbly you can add more of the water. 

  9. At about the 10 minute mark, the pasta should be al dente. Check frequently for doneness. 

  10. Using tongs, remove the pasta from the pan, allowing it to drain in midair for a few seconds before adding it to the mixing bowl. 

  11. Stir vigorously with the tongs for 2 minutes. It may look like it's not going to come together, but give it time and a lot of force. If it's still too clumby add more cooking water. 

  12. Serving pipping hot!

Recipe Notes

The original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of salt. I have had people say they thought the dish was too salty, so I am recommending cutting that in half and starting with 1 tablespoon. You can add more if you like.