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5 from 5 votes

Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

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.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: baked macaroni and cheese, cacio e pepe, what is cacio e pepe
Servings: 4
Calories: 402kcal
Cost: $12


  • 1 Dutch oven
  • 1 silicon spatula
  • 1 mortar and pestle


  • 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.


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