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Under 30 Minutes

Cacio e Pepe with Lemon

Cacio e pepe is practically synonymous with Pecorino Romano -- but Pecorino clumps when cooked. Add it at the end, instead, which also makes the most of its sharp flavor. Lemon adds spunk -- that is, acidity and freshness.

  • Prep:
  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 2
Cacio e Pepe with Lemon

Source: Martha Stewart Living, February 2013


  • Coarse salt
  • 8 ounces thick spaghetti or bucatini
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, softened
  • 3 ounces Grana Padano cheese, grated (1 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly cracked pepper (use a mortar and pestle or the coarsest setting on a grinder), plus more for garnish
  • 3/4 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1/4 cup)
  • 1 small lemon (preferably Meyer)
  • High-quality extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling


  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until very al dente, about 2 minutes less than called for in package instructions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water before draining.

  2. Transfer pasta to a 12-inch skillet (preferably nonstick). Add butter and 1/2 cup pasta water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. The heat helps the starch in the water meld with the fat from the butter, which prevents the Grana Padano from becoming stringy in the finished dish.

  3. Reduce heat to low, and mix in Grana Padano and cracked pepper. Grana Padano is softer than Pecorino Romano; it will melt into the buttery water, creating a sauce as the pasta finishes cooking.

  4. Toss pasta with tongs to thoroughly coat it with sauce. Keep everything at a gentle simmer just until cheese melts and sauce thickens slightly, about 1 minute.

  5. Remove from heat, then stir in Pecorino Romano. (Always add Pecorino off direct heat; it clumps when cooked.) Zest lemon over the pasta. Any type of lemon will do, but a Meyer is particularly nice in this dish: It's sweeter in flavor and aroma, with back notes of orange and lime. At this time of year, you'll find Meyer lemons at specialty-food stores and some supermarkets.

  6. If pasta looks dry, toss it with a bit more pasta water until it has a glossy coating. Divide between 2 warm bowls. Drizzle each with oil and lemon juice, and garnish with more cracked pepper. Serve immediately.

Reviews (2)

  • grazianolinda 22 Apr, 2013

    How can something this simple be so absolutely amazing? Don't skimp on the ingredients, they are worth every bite.

  • Kbuechler 11 Apr, 2013

    Delicious! I was shocked how fantastic this recipe was. The lemon cuts the intensity of the cheese and it really is creamy and just delicious. We ate it as a main course. I have made it several times and with several kinds of cheeses. The first time I only had parmesan and it was still spectacular. Hint: Make homemade pasta, it is worth the effort. Fresh pasta soaks up the sauces perfectly.

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