Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese

Dinner, Pasta, Quick and Easy, Thanksgiving, The Holidays, Winter

This Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese recipe is inspired by the classic Italian pasta, Cacio e Pepe. This has ground up toasted black peppercorns, lots of Parmesan mixed into a cheesy sauce that thickly coats your favorite pasta!

Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese

In my brain a few weeks ago, I was craving cacio e pepe but I also wanted it to be cheesy. Cacio e pepe enthusiasts and purists will scoff at this recipe but the rest of us who love cheesy cheese and black pepper, will love it. I can’t win them all.

What is Cacio e Pepe?

Cacio e Pepe is a pasta Roman dish that literally translates to “cheese and pasta.” It consists of simple ingredients: Pecorino-Romano, black peppercorns and pasta. It’s a truly simple dish but it requires technique and a bit of skill to nail.

This is the quickest weeknight meal and it’s also delicious to serve people on the weekends when you want something chill that will make everyone smile.

How to Make this Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese

  1. Toast the peppercorns. And then transfer them to a mortar and pestle (or you could use a spice blender) and grind them up into small grounds.
  2. Cook the pasta. I used cavatappi. But you could use whatever shape you like! I like to cook it a minute or two under.
  3. Make the roux. Melt the butter and add the flour. And then, when everything is combined, you pour in the milk.
  4. Thicken the roux. When the roux is has thickened, you add the cheese. As a result, the sauce will become all delicious and cheesy.
  5. Add the black pepper. This is the “cacio” part.
  6. Mix in the pasta. And then, add the pasta. Give it a nice stir so the pasta is evenly coated in the sauce.
  7. Top it with more black pepper, Pecorino and serve! 

Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese

Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese

If you make this Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese, let me know on Instagram! 

Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Serving Size: 4
Calories: 402kcal
This macaroni and cheese recipe is inspired by the classic Italian pasta, Cacio e Pepe. This has ground up toasted black peppercorns, lots of Parmesan mixed into a cheesy sauce that thickly coats pasta.


  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 pound cavatappi or pasta of choice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 3 ounces Parmesan-Reggiano, finely grated
  • Kosher salt


To Toast the Peppercorns:

  • In a small skillet, set over medium heat, add the peppercorns and toast for about 3 to 4 minutes, until fragrant. Transfer them to a mortar and pestle and grind them until they’re pulverized. If you don’t own a mortar and pestle, no worries! You can transfer them to a cutting board and smash them with the bottom of a clean pan. You can also use a large chef’s knife. Set the crushed peppercorns aside.

To Make the Macaroni and Cheese:

  • Bring a pot or Dutch oven of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente (my pasta took about 7 minutes). Reserve about a cup of pasta water. I usually scoop it out with a dry cup measure. Drain the pasta and drizzle with a teeny bit of olive oil (this will prohibit them from sticking to each other).
  • In a medium saucepan or Dutch oven, set over medium heat, melt the butter. When the butter has melted, add the flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the milk and bring to a simmer; cook until it’s thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes. It should coat the back of a spoon. Turn off the heat and allow to cool for about 2 minutes.
  • Next, add the mozzarella, Parmesan-Reggiani and a few generous pinches of black pepper. If needed, turn the heat to medium-low to completely melt the cheese. Give it a taste and add salt to taste (I ended up adding about 1/2 teaspoon of salt but this will really depend on the salt content in the cheeses you’re using).
  • Stir in the pasta and add some more black pepper if you like. Toss until evenly coated. Mix in about a 1/4 cup of pasta water. This will give it a bit of a creamier consistency. Add a bit more if you like. I ended up adding about a 1/2 cup of pasta water in total. Divide amongst bowls and top with a bit more black pepper as garnish.
CuisineAmerican, Italian
Keywordbaked macaroni and cheese, cacio e pepe, what is cacio e pepe
Serving: 4g | Calories: 402kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 86mg | Sodium: 257mg | Potassium: 308mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 1024IU | Calcium: 364mg | Iron: 1mg
Did you make this Recipe? Tag me Today!Tag @acozykitchen on Instagram and hashtag it #acozykitchen

Looking for more pasta recipes? Here are some of my favorites:

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Recipe Rating

  • Reply Chelcie January 20, 2020 at 12:38 am

    5 stars
    ‘Cacio’ means cheese, ‘pepe’ means pepper.. 😉 Loved it though!

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme January 20, 2020 at 12:19 pm

      hahaha i wrote this late at night and clearly my brain was MUST. thanks for catching this! haha.

  • Reply Alyssa July 29, 2019 at 11:53 am

    looks so delicious! What type of mozzarella did you use? Low moisture or fresh that you shredded yourself?

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme July 30, 2019 at 2:48 pm

      i used low-moisture shredded mozzarella. fresh will work, i just don’t love the added moisture.

  • Reply Stacy February 25, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    I just made this but the sauce broke. No clue what I did wrong. I made mac n cheese from scratcg all the time

    • Reply Stacy February 26, 2018 at 6:26 pm

      Update: It was the cheese I used.

      • Reply Adrianna Adarme February 26, 2018 at 6:47 pm

        what type of cheese did you use?

        • Reply Adrianna Adarme February 26, 2018 at 6:48 pm

          i’m super interested because usually mozzarella is so stringy and thickens it right up!

  • Reply Diego Lopes February 20, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    I’ve never prepared cacio e pepe before, but this looks so delicious that I’ll have to try. Thanks for posting!

  • Reply Hannah February 19, 2018 at 6:06 am

    I just made this! And I loved it! So then I saw you’ve been to Bologna? I’m gonna go there soon *yay* any recommendations? Foodwise I mean. 😉

  • Reply Lori February 18, 2018 at 8:40 am

    This really sounds fantastic! Love the idea.

  • Reply Jaqui February 18, 2018 at 7:30 am

    This looks so delicious! I’m definitely making it this week.
    What kind of milk did you use for this recipe?

  • Reply Jessica February 16, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    I’ve never heard of toasting peppercorns before. Since I LOOOOVE black pepper this is gonna make it into the rotation!

  • Reply Celia Becker @ February 16, 2018 at 5:30 pm

    YUM!! I love Cacio e Pepe ever since eating it in Rome where it originated. I went to an awesome restaurant that was recommended by Italian Blogger Elizabeth Minchilli and had it there where it is also Elizabeth’s favorite dish. But the extra cheese you have added looks so delicious I can’t wait to try your recipe!

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme February 17, 2018 at 12:41 pm

      i’ve never been to rome but if i go a plate of cacio e pepe is def in order. when i was in bolgona we went to a roman restaurant and i had to order cacio e pepe–it was incredible.

      this is obviously the furthest thing from authentic but it’s not meant to be so it’s ok! haha

  • Reply Amanda February 16, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    o.m.g. yes please.

  • Reply Nathalie February 16, 2018 at 11:04 am

    This is the recipe I’ve been waiting for my entire life. SO excited to make this!!!

  • Reply Jillian B February 16, 2018 at 8:51 am

    as this is the mashup of two of my VERY favorite foods in the entire world, I’m really excited to give this a whirl! will save it for a rainy afternoon to really savor the cheesiness. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  • Reply Taylor February 16, 2018 at 8:19 am

    Love this! I’m totally with you on the Kraft mac and cheese with black pepper, it may or may not still be my go to easy comfort food when I’ve had a bad day :p