This Bucatini Cacio e Pepe pasta is one of the easiest pasta recipes you’ll ever make! In just 20 minutes and with only 4 ingredients, this bucatini recipe can be on your dinner table. The thick noodles are coated in a delicious brown butter Parmigiano Reggiano pasta sauce. 

You don’t need tons of fancy ingredients to make a creamy and delicious pasta! This recipe is proof of that. For more simple but flavorful pasta recipes, check out my Butternut Squash Pasta, Tuna Carbonara, Penne Pomodoro, and Lemon Pasta recipes!

Bucatini Cacio e Pepe noodles swirled in a black bowl.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Browned butter cacio e pepe. An additional layer of flavor is using the browned butter in this recipe. It adds a nice nuttiness you wouldn’t get if you didn’t brown the butter. It’s definitely worth it! But seriously, everything is better when you brown the butter. No joke. Exhibit A: brown butter chocolate chip cookies.
  • Only 5 ingredients. This cacio e pepe pasta comes together with just 4 ingredients! It’s the perfect pasta recipe to make on a budget or when you haven’t had time to go to the grocery store.
  • Easy pasta recipe. This recipe takes only 20 minutes to make! It’s such an easy recipe to make when you are in a time crunch!
  • Great pasta base. Trust me when I say this recipe is AMAZING on its own, but another beautiful thing about this bucatini cacio e pepe pasta recipe is that it is a great base pasta to build off of. Add some sautéed vegetables or mushrooms or some rotisserie chicken, etc. 

Ingredient Notes

Bucatini Cacio e Pepe ingredients laying on a white background.
  • Bucatini: Since this is a bucatini pasta recipe, we’ll use bucatini. However, you can use any other type of slender, long pasta such as spaghetti, angel hair, fettuccine or linguini. 
  • Parmigiano Reggiano: You can also use pecorino Romano.
  • Butter: I’ll walk you through how to brown butter in the instructions below. Using the browned butter adds a much richer and deeper flavor complex to this pasta dish. 
  • Pepper: The pepe in this pasta is the pepper! Use a cracked or black pepper.  

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta. Add the pasta to a boiling pot of water that is heavily salted. You want the water to be heavily salted, we are using the starchy pasta water to create the pasta sauce. Cook until about 1 minute shy of al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving roughly 3 cups of pasta water.
  2. Make the butter and cheese sauce. In a large skillet Melt the butter over medium to medium low heat I a large skillet. Once melted, add the pepper. Stir the butter and pepper and continue cooking until the butter starts to foam. Continue cooking for another minute or 2 or until the butter turns a light amber color. Add 1 cup of the pasta water and bring this to a simmer. (Once you add the water, it will get really bubbly, so be careful)! Slowly stir in 1 cup of the finely grated cheese, stirring so that the sauce stays smooth.
  3. Stir in the pasta. Using kitchen tongs, add the cooked pasta, tossing to coat in the sauce. Add the remaining cheese and additional pasta water (enough to create a smooth and saucy consistency). I used about 2 1/2 cups of pasta water.
  4. Serve immediately. Serve the browned butter Cacio e Pepe bucatini with additional salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!
A gray skillet full of bucatini noodles topped with fresh parmesan cheese.

Recipe Tips

This dish is simple, but cooking the pasta correctly is important. You want to drain the pasta water (reserving it, remember!) just before the pasta is al dente. This is because the cacio e pepe pasta sauce is made with pasta water. As the pasta sits, it soaks up the pasta water, so if you over cook the noodles, then as they soak up the water from the sauce, they can become overcooked. 

If you don’t eat the dish immediately after making it, you’ll probably find yourself needing to add additional pasta water to the dish to keep the saucy consistency. (So basically, don’t toss the pasta water until AFTER you’ve finished eating).

Top with additional pepper, salt and cheese to taste. 

Variations for this recipe include using pecorino cheese or adding sautéed vegetables like mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers, etc.  

Serve the bucatini pasta with a side of Roasted Frozen Cauliflower, Buttered Vegetables or Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad

Kitchen tongs turning Bucatini Cacio e Pepe noodles in a skillet.

Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing

You can make this browned butter bucatini cacio e pepe recipe ahead of time or store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days. To reheat, add some more of the reserved pasta water to the pasta and warm in the microwave until warmed through. Top with some additional parmigiano reggiano and stir so the water and the cheese combines to make the pasta saucy again. 

I don’t recommend freezing this bucatini cacio recipe since pasta noodles can get mushy if frozen and thawed. 

FAQs

What is cacio e pepe?

This pasta dish literally means “cheese and pepper.” Formaggio is the more traditional Italian word for cheese, but you can use “cacio” for cheese, and in some Italian dialects it is the main word used to mean cheese. 

What cheese should you use to make Bucatini Cacio e Pepe? 

Cacio e pepe is made with pecorino romano or parmesan cheese. If you want a sharp flavor, use pecorino cheese. I opted for parmigiano reggiano (real parmesan cheese, rather than imitation parmesan). To get a delicious balance you can use half pecorino and half parmigiana reggiano to make the bucatini Cacio e Pepe.

What is the difference between pecorino Romano and parmigiano reggiano?

Both are hard cheese, but pecorino Romano is whiter and saltier, with a sharper flavor. Parmigiano Reggiano comes from cow’s milk while pecorino Romano comes from sheep milk. 

What kind of pasta is used to make Cacio e Pepe?

Cacio e Pepe recipes typically use bucatini pasta. However, some grocery stores might not carry this pasta variety; if you can’t find bucatini pasta use spaghetti or linguini pasta.

A black plate with two forks twirled into Bucatini Cacio e Pepe noodles.

More Easy Pasta Recipes

Did you make this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Click here to leave a rating and review, or scroll below the recipe card and do so there. 

Stay up-to-date by following us on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Bucatini Cacio e Pepe noodles in a skillet pan with kitchen tongs turning the noodles over.
Print Review
5 from 3 votes

Bucatini Cacio e Pepe

Bucatini Cacio e Pepe is a simple pasta dish that comes together in just 20 minutes! With just 4 ingredients you can have an elegant, flavorful Italian dish on your table!
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 20 mins
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients
 

  • 16 oz Bucatini pasta - can use spaghetti or linguini if you can't find Bucatini
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper - can add more when you taste it at the end
  • 2 1/4 cups Parmegiano Reggiano - or Romano pecorino, see note 1.
  • reserved pasta water - will need about 3 cups worth

Instructions
 

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling add salt (you want the water to be heavily salted).
  • Place the pasta in the water and cook, stirring occasionally until about 1 minute shy of al dente. 
  • Drain the pasta, reserving roughly 3 cups of the pasta water. 
  • In a large skillet melt the butter, over medium to medium low heat. Once melted add the pepper. Stir the butter and pepper and continue cooking until the butter starts to foam. Continue cooking for another minute or 2, or until the butter turns a light amber color. 
  • Stir in 1 cup of the pasta water, bring to a simmer. Slowly stir in 1 cup of the finely grated cheese, stirring so that the sauce stays smooth. 
  • Using kitchen tongs, add the cooked pasta, tossing to coat in the sauce. Add the remaining cheese and additional pasta water to create a smooth and saucy sauce (I add roughly 1 1/2 more cups, but it varies). See note 2.

Notes

If you don’t eat the dish immediately after making it, you’ll probably find yourself needing to add additional pasta water to the dish to keep the saucy consistency. (So basically, don’t toss the pasta water until AFTER you’ve finished eating).
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days. To reheat, add some more of the reserved pasta water to the pasta and warm in the microwave until warmed through. Top with some additional parmigiano reggiano and stir so the water and the cheese combines to make the pasta saucy again.
I don’t recommend freezing this bucatini cacio recipe since pasta noodles can get mushy if frozen and thawed.

Nutrition

Calories: 433kcal (22%)Carbohydrates: 43g (14%)Protein: 18g (36%)Fat: 20g (31%)Saturated Fat: 12g (60%)Cholesterol: 55mg (18%)Sodium: 435mg (18%)Potassium: 162mg (5%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 2g (2%)Vitamin A: 598IU (12%)Calcium: 327mg (33%)Iron: 1mg (6%)
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Did you make this recipe?Leave a star rating and review on the blog post letting me know how you liked this recipe! Take a picture and tag @saltandbaker on Instagram and Facebook so I can see what you’re making!

This recipe was originally published on Feb. 24, 2020. It was republished on Jan. 20, 2022, to include additional information and photos.