Ever wonder why the basics are sometimes the hardest to master? Perhaps because there’s no masking or hiding behind garnishes or strong herbs and sauces. If the seasoning, texture, and doneness is right then even the minimalist of recipes makes for a spectacular experience. Cacio e Pepe (or cheese and pepper pasta) is one such dish – simple, elegant yet so refined and hard to master.

After at least 3 tries, I found just the right balance of cheese, pepper and sauce consistency, what’s more, I added some sage to my brown butter roux and topped off the dish with the same – let me tell you, you will never make Cacio e Pepe any other way!

A few things to note when making this recipe:

  • I used Spaghettini or Bucatini for this recipe. You are welcome to use Tonnarelli or any kind of thick spaghetti-like pasta. I would recommend staying away from Linguini or angel hair
  • I used Pecorino Romano as my hard cheese. You can use Grana Padano as an alternative. I would stay away from Asiago or Parmesan
  • Use freshly ground black pepper here. There’s no substitute to the flavor of freshly ground black pepper
  • Do not take the pasta water out until the pasta is ready to go in the colander for a cold bath. You need all that starch for the sauce
  • This is a rich dish filled with carbs, mind the portions when serving
Print Recipe
Cacio e Pepe in Sage and Brown Butter Sauce
This simple, rustic, yet refined dish is sure to transport you to Italy. With the addition of sage fried in brown butter and the tang from the Pecorino Romano, you will be reaching for seconds and thirds before you know it!
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a medium pot, boil water (enough to cook the pasta). Once the water boils, add a dash of olive oil and cook the pasta until barely done (it will cook slightly more when added to the sauce later)
  2. Before dumping out the pasta water, reserve 1.5 cups. Drain the pasta in a colander and run it under cold water
  3. In a large pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp butter on medium flame. When the butter melts, add flour and cook the roux until the flour gives out a roasted, nutty aroma (about 1-2 minutes). Keep stirring, do not burn
  4. Add milk and grind out any lumps with your spatula. Add ground pepper and cheese, let melt, then add 1 cup pasta water. Let simmer for a few minutes, then add salt
  5. Reduce flame to low-medium, add pasta and gently coat it with the sauce using your spatula.
  6. While the pasta is soaking up the sauce, in a small pan, heat up the remaining 2 tbsp butter. When the butter is browned sufficiently, add sage leaves and fry for 10 seconds. Add to the pasta and serve immediately