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A white dinner plate filled with cacio e pepe with a fork nearby.

Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe

Course: Appetizer or Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: how to make cacio e pepe, pasta with cheese and pepper recipe
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 478kcal
Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe is a popular Roman dish that is made from just 4 ingredients, including salt. Going with top-notch ingredients is key. Plan ahead of time. See out a high-quality Italian market or order online.
Print Recipe


  • Pot for boiling pasta
  • Box grater for grating the Pecorino Romano
  • Mortar and pestle or spice grinder
  • Large pasta bowl


  • ½ cup black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp coarse sea salt or coarse Kosher salt
  • 14 oz pasta tonnarelli or spaghetti
  • 10 oz Pecorino Romano grated


Do Ahead

  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the whole peppercorns and stir gently until they become aromatic, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  • Add to a mortar and pestle and grind them until they become powdery and grey in color, about 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

Prepare the Cacio e Pepe

  • Bring a large pot of boiling water to a boil. Add 2 tbsp of coarse salt.
  • Add the pasta to the water. Stir to keep the pasta from sticking together. A couple of minutes before the pasta becomes al dente, place your pasta bowl over the pot. (This heats the pasta bowl and helps to make a creamy sauce).
  • Use kitchen towels to remove the pasta bowl and check the pasta to make sure it's cooked to al dente.
  • Drain the pasta but save the water.
  • Add the pasta to the warmed pasta bowl. Working in batches, add the cheese and ladle in some pasta water, stirring everything together constantly.
  • Add about 2 tbsp of the ground pepper and keep stirring until the cheese and water create a creamy sauce that clings to the pasta. If too runny, add more cheese. If too thick, add more pasta water.
  • Serve immediately with additional ground pepper tableside.


See the video near the top of the blog post for visual guidance. If you liked the video, please subscribe to our YouTube channel. 
Dried spaghetti or bucatini are perfectly acceptable substitutions for the tonnarelli. 
Be sure to grate the cheese with the small holes on your box grater, not the larger shredding holes. This helps to make the perfect sauce. 
This dish is definitely best served right after tossing together. You can reheat with the addition of more pasta water. (Keep some on hand in case you have leftovers). 
We don't recommend freezing this dish.  


Calories: 478kcal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 49mg | Sodium: 2900mg | Potassium: 451mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 304IU | Calcium: 605mg | Iron: 3mg