Cacio e Pepe Pasta

Cacio e Pepe Pasta

What the forms say: W-2, 1099, IT-201, W-9, 1040.

What I read: KFC, BLT, M&Ms, CPK, PB&J.

There may not be crying in baseball, but there is without a doubt crying in taxes. I’ve never been big on “math,” so I’m thanking my lucky stars that the world’s best CPA saved me from the horror this year with a lesson in Taxes 101. Now that the headache is behind me for another 11 months, I’m doing what I do every year after I file my taxes: promising myself I’ll spend less money on food.

Here’s my first attempt: noodles, butter, cheese and pepper. Cacio e Pepe is my budget-friendly, big-flavored favorite that’s not so great for the skinny jeans but unbeatable for the wallet. My sister first introduced me to this dish during dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant in Chicago, Davanti Enoteca. One taste, and I, nor my food budget, have ever looked back. 

Cacio e Pepe Pasta

Cacio e Pepe Pasta

Cacio e Pepe Pasta


Cacio e Pepe Pasta

Yield: 4 - 6 servings

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time: 12 min


1 lb. dried spaghetti
1½ cups grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, small diced
1½ teaspoons coarsely grated black pepper


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Return the pasta to the pot. Add the grated cheese, butter, black pepper and roughly ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water to the pot, stirring until combined. If necessary, add more pasta water to thin out the cheese and butter until the spaghetti is well coated.

Kelly's Notes:

I can't tell you how many times I've forgotten to reserve a portion of the pasta water when draining the spaghetti. The starchy water is critical to the consistency of the sauce, so while hot water will work in a pinch, avoid forgetting this step!

The cheese must be grated, rather than shredded, as the shredded consistency has the tendency to clump together when added to the pot.


  1. says

    Love this dish! And I know what you mean about forgetting to reserve the pasta water – I always kick myself when I forget (which is often).

    Many congrats again on the book! Just arrived yesterday. From now on when anyone asks me for food blogging advice I’m going to refer them straight to your book – you’ve covered it all from A to Z and so in depth too. Fabulous job! :-)

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — April 11th, 2012 @ 1:05 pm

      Thank you so, so much, Kathy! That means the world coming from you! I hope you saw your mention on pg. 28 :)

  2. says

    I eat this nearly weekly, we used to call it “naked noodles”! And it’s the perfect remedy for taxes, yuck. So glad those are over for another year. Gorgeous photos!

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — April 11th, 2012 @ 1:05 pm

      Thanks, Cassie!

  3. says

    lol we just got our taxes back from our CPA–too funny. I said the same exact thing you said–need to reduce that grocery bill. Love this recipe, it looks and sounds amazing!

  4. says

    I love this recipe…I only did parm & butter but I’ll add pepper next time. I used to make this all the time in high school…it’s definitely easy comfort food! Love it!

  5. says

    Congratulations on publishing your book (and getting your taxes done)! I enjoyed the post you did last week about artificial food setups, and I’m interested in reading your book, particularly for your insights on food photography for blogs. Photography is not my storng suit. For my blog, I’ve taken an approach of shooting lots of photos and then hoping a good one falls out. Sometimes it does, but I’m not always satisfied with what I get. In looking at the shots for this post, for example, I like that you have a mix of showing the final product, arty ingredient shots and an instructional shot (the last one). Is that an intentional mix? Also, in the first shot, it looks like you’ve nested two bowls for the pasta. I’d be interested in any of insights for how you make these decisions.

  6. says

    Hi! Your post inspired me to try this recipe and loved it ever since. I even posted one in my blog and I thought I posted a message her but I realized I haven’t so I’m here thanking you.



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