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Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Black Pepper) with Optional Chicken

  • Total Time: 17 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


Can be used as a sauce for vegetables but most commonly used for pasta

This can sound like the black pepper is going to be overwhelming but it is the main flavoring so don't skimp

Nutritional information does not include chicken


  • 1 1/2 cups pecorino romano cheese (finely grated)
  • 1 cup parmegiano/reggiano cheese (finely grated)
  • 1 tbs black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup pasta water
  • 1/2 pound long pasta (linquine or spaghetti)--fresh is best
  • 1 large green onion (green tops only, sliced on diagonal)
  • 1-2 tsp olive oil
  • 6 ounces guanciale or pancetta (Optional)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (Optional) or 1 1/2 cups pre-cooked chicken cut into bite-size pieces


  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the guanciale/pancetta (if using) and cook until slightly crispy but still soft in the center, 8-10 minutes
  3. Remove from pan to a paper towel to drain.
  4. Season the chicken with the salt (if using raw) and add it to the skillet, cooking until cooked through, 5-7 minutes. If using precooked, add to skillet and cook until warmed through.
  5. Put a pot of salted water on to boil.
  6. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta.
  7. In the skillet on medium heat, add the black pepper to toast.
  8. Add 1/2 cup pasta water to the skillet to deglaze the pan.
  9. In a large bowl, combine the cheese, green onion, and black pepper with any remaining liquid
  10. Mash to make a thick paste (if necessary, add additional pasta water).
  11. Spread the paste evenly in the bowl.
  12. The minute before it is perfectly cooked, use tongs to quickly transfer the pasta to the bowl, reserving a cup or so of the cooking water.
  13. Add the chicken to the bowl with the pasta.
  14. Stir vigorously to coat the pasta, adding a teaspoon or two of olive oil and a bit of the pasta cooking water to thin the sauce if necessary.
  15. The sauce should cling to the pasta and be creamy but not watery.
  16. Plate and dust each dish with additional pecorino, guanciale (if using) and cracked pepper.
  17. Serve immediately.


Source:  NYT Cooking--Mark Bittman and Dan Rinaldi from The Great American Recipe Cookbook

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes


  • Calories: 646
  • Fat: 44.99 g
  • Carbohydrates: 22.75 g
  • Protein: 36.21 g
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