This is a take on a popular Italian recipe called Cacio e Pepe, aka cheese and black pepper. It is made with pasta, its cooking water, Pecorino Romano and loads of freshly ground black pepper. The pleasing piquant flavor from the pepper pairs perfectly with the savory cheese and wraps around each noodle like a warm and cozy blanket. I combined a few recipes to come up with this easier version. Serve with a simple green salad and good white wine.

Duty Recipe Recipe: Consider making a double batch of this creamy pepper sauce to stir into mashed potatoes, or add a couple of dollops to warm rice for an easy side dish during the week.


  • 1 pound spaghetti or other long pasta
  • 8 ounces Pecorino Romano, finely grated, about 2 cups, plus more for serving
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarsely grated black pepper, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup filtered water or more as needed
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, optional
  • Kosher salt


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with a generous amount Kosher salt. Add the spaghetti and cook according to the package instructions until el dente. Save 2 cups of the pasta water and drain the pasta into a colander. Add the pasta back into the pot and cover to keep warm.
  2. While the pasta cooks, add the cheese and pepper to a high-speed blender or food processor and half the filtered water, and blend until a thick paste forms. Add more water as necessary until the paste becomes smooth and glossy but still thick like the consistency of hummus.
  3. To the pasta, add about 3/4 cup of the paste and 1/2 cup reserved cooking water, and mix well pulling the pasta up from the pot as you go to incorporate. Add more paste and then more of the pasta water as necessary and until you achieve the desired consistency.
  4. Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with toasted walnuts (optional), additional grated cheese, and a few cranks of black pepper.