Cacio e Pepe is a super simple classic Italian pasta dish that gets its name from two star ingredients: cheese and pepper . My version is freshened up by the addition of peppery arugula, which pairs perfectly the pecorino cheese and black pepper.
I’m a bit obsessed with pasta. And cheese. And pepper. So, of course cheese and pepper pasta would appeal to me! I have been making a version of this classic ever since I came across a recipe in an Italian cookbook many years ago. To be honest, I don’t even know if I have the cookbook anymore and I couldn’t tell you if my recipe is even close to what a traditional one would be. However, I assume there are many variations out there. So today I’m sharing mine!
Cheese and pepper linguine combines toasted cracked black pepper, salty pecorino cheese, and spicy arugula – this dish packs quite a punch in the flavor department.
Cheese and pepper linguine sounds pretty simple right? It is. So why dedicate a whole blog post to such a simple dish? Well, for one it’s too good not to share and two, a lot of people like to have a recipe in front of them when they are cooking. Plus, mine isn’t just cheese and pepper…there’s green involved!
Since this pasta has so few ingredients, you really want them to be top notch.
For the cheese, make sure you use a good quality pecorino Romano. I like the authentic stuff, straight from Rome! You’ll know it’s authentic by the rind: it’s dark in color and has “Locatelli” on it. I like to coarsely grate the cheese for this pasta – this way it doesn’t get lost in the dish and melt too quickly.
Black pepper is a must in this dish, and you need quite a bit – 2 tablespoons. Grinding it by hand from your pepper-mill will take a long time and your arm will be sore! For occasions like this, I like to keep a jar of cracked black pepper on hand. It’s coarser than the ground stuff you can buy, packs more of a punch, and the little black flecks look great on the pasta strands.
Toasting the pepper first in a dry pan really brings out the flavor. Just put it in a small pan over medium heat and allow it toast for about a minute. Then, add in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter and stir until the butter melts. (My picture below shows the pepper with the olive oil, right before I added the butter)
My healthy side doesn’t like to have a meal that doesn’t contain something healthy. Therefore, I find myself always trying to add something healthy to something that’s not so healthy. For example, stewed tomatoes over macaroni and cheese, fruit in my baked goods… you get the idea. To this pasta dish I add arugula, so my healthy side feels better!
I love the addition of the arugula, it’s spicy and adds a unique flavor, but you could also use spinach if you prefer.
Once your pasta is done cooking, just toss it with the pepper-olive oil-butter mixture and in alternating handfuls add in the cheese and arugula. To give your pasta more of a saucy consistency, add in some reserved pasta water – this usually takes ½ to 1 cup. And there you go! Dinner is served – make sure you top each serving with some additional cheese!
My mouth waters at the thought of this pasta dish…it’s just so good – simple food at its finest. Cheesy pepper linguine is the perfect meal for summer or for a busy weeknight. I think it’s perfect as is, but if you want you could grill up some chicken or shrimp to have alongside.
If you love pasta, cheese, and pepper as much as I do then you have to go make this, now. Once you try it, you’re going to be looking for excuses to make it!
- 12 oz. Gluten-Free Linguine, or 9oz. fresh gluten-free linguine
- Kosher Salt
- 2 Tablespoons Cracked Black Pepper*
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
- 1 Cup Pecorino Romano Cheese*, freshly grated, plus more for topping
- 3 Cups Fresh Baby Arugula
- Cook the linguine in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 ½ cups of the pasta water, and then rinsing the pasta with hot water.
- Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the black pepper and allow it to toast for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Remove from the heat and add the olive oil and butter; stir until the butter is melted.
- In a large pasta bowl, toss the pasta with the pepper-olive oil-butter mixture. While tossing, alternate adding in the cheese and arugula. Continue tossing until all of the cheese and arugula are incorporated, adding pasta water as necessary to moisten (this usually takes ½ to 1 cup)*.
- Serve with extra pecorino cheese for topping.
- *You can buy cracked black pepper in the spice aisle - I avoid the ground stuff here because the flavor isn't as strong and it's too fine. The cracked pepper adds heat, but also looks beautiful throughout the pasta strands. I like to buy a jar of it to have on hand when I need a lot of pepper - grinding up 2 tablespoons by hand would take a while and make your arm sore!
- *Use the real deal of pecorino romano cheese here - you can find it in just about any grocery store these days. It comes in a block and you'll know it's authentic by the rind. It's a dark rind with "locatelli" on it. You'll get the best flavor by using the best cheese - no jarred stuff here!
- *I like to reserve extra pasta water to add to the leftovers, I find that they heat up great with a little added moisture from the pasta water.
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