Chefs' Recipes

Sarah Cicolini's spaghettoni con cacio e pepe

You've seen this Roman pasta dish all over social media. Now, find out its origins and try your hand at the deceptively simple recipe.

By Sarah Cicolini
  • 10 mins preparation
  • 20 mins cooking
  • Serves 4 - 6
  • Print
"This classic Roman pasta dish was traditionally prepared by peasants and shepherds who made pasta in the morning, dusted it with salted sheep's cheese, and wrapped it up to eat with their hands in the fields at lunchtime," says Sarah Cicolini, head chef and co-owner at Rome's Santo Palato.


  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 500 gm (6¼ cups) Pecorino Romano, finely grated
  • 120 gm Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
  • 500 gm dried spaghettoni


  • 1
    Dry-roast peppercorns in a small frying pan over low heat, swirling until very fragrant (5 minutes). Cool, then coarsely grind with a mortar and pestle, and combine with cheeses.
  • 2
    Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until according to packet instructions until al dente. Drain, reserving about 1 litre pasta water, and transfer pasta to a large warm bowl.
  • 3
    Add a handful of cheese mixture to the pasta stirring vigorously to coat. Stirring constantly, add a second handful of cheese and a ladleful of pasta water, then, still stirring, continue to add cheese and pasta water, alternating 2 handfuls of cheese with every ladle of water and thinning with more pasta water as needed, until all the cheese has been added and sauce clings to the pasta evenly. Divide among plates and top with any remaining sauce to serve.


Drink suggestion: Crisp white Frascati. Drink suggestion by Max Allen.