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Creamy Cavatappi Cacio e Pepe

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time:  5 min
  • Cook Time:  15 min
  • Calories: 539
homemade Creamy Cavatappi Cacio e Pepe in a bowl with a fork topped with grated Romano and coarsely cracked pepper
Photography by Gayle McLeod

Classic Italian cacio e pepe—meaning “cheese and pepper”—sauce is a lusciously creamy match for cavatappi pasta in this speedy weeknight recipe.

A Classic, Creamy Cavatappi Recipe

Cacio e pepe is a classic Italian pasta sauce recipe, if something with just three main ingredients—cheese, pepper and pasta—could be called a recipe. Cacio e pepe is most closely associated with Rome and the surrounding areas, where pecorino romano cheese reigns supreme. Most of all, this quick and easy pasta recipe celebrates one of our very favorite pasta shapes—cavatappi! We wanted a creamy sauce that would cling to the lovely, twisty, hollow corkscrews that we love so much, but that wouldn’t overpower. Something simple, that keeps the focus on the pasta! Cacio e pepe—or at least our version of it—was the answer!

salt, pepper, olive oil, pecorino Romano, parmigiana-reggiano and a bag of DeLallo cavatappi pasta on the counter

What is Cavatappi?

Cavatappi pasta is a pasta shape that originated in Southern Italy, and it definitely does have a resemblance to a corkscrew. It’s curly, tubular, springy and short—like a twisted, slightly longer penne pasta. DeLallo makes cavatappi with an exclusive blend of high quality durum wheat with a high gluten content, and the pasta is extruded from the pasta maker extra slowly to create a unique, wonderful texture—one that’s just right for encouraging a sauce like cacio e pepe to cling to it! You’ll want to be sure to cook it to just al dente so that it has a tender but firm bite with a fleck of white at the center of the bitten pasta—that little fleck of white is what they call the pasta’s soul.

glistening olive oil in a large skillet to make creamy cavatappi cacio e pepe
glistening olive oil being swirled with coarsely cracked pepper in a large skillet to make creamy cavatappi cacio e pepe
cooked cavatappi and finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano being stirred into olive oil and cracked pepper in a large skillet
homemade Creamy Cavatappi Cacio e Pepe made with Romano and parmigiana cheeses in a pot being stirred with a spoon

Everything You’ll Need to Make Our Cavatappi Cacio e Pepe

Pecorino Romano is the classic cheese for this, and we adore the combo of that salty Sheep’s cheese with Parmigiano (a cow’s milk cheese)—it’s absolute heaven. It might seem easy to ignore but when we mention in the recipe that the cheeses should be “finely grated” we really do mean that! The texture and grain of the cheese really matters here—it’ll determine how well it melts into the pasta cooking water and becomes a creamy sauce. The best way to prep them is to grab a microplane grater and grate the cheese into big snowy mounds yourself. Here’s everything you’ll need to make the greatest cavatappi cacio e pepe ever:

  • Kosher salt

  • Cavatappi

  • Extra-virgin olive oil

  • Black pepper

  • Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano

  • Pecorino Romano

homemade Creamy Cavatappi Cacio e Pepe made with Romano and parmigiana cheeses in a pot being stirred with a spoon
homemade Creamy Cavatappi Cacio e Pepe in a bowl topped with grated Romano and parmigiano and coarsely cracked pepper
Creamy Cavatappi Cacio e Pepe in a bowl with a fork topped with grated Romano and parmigiano and coarsely cracked pepper
Creamy Cavatappi Cacio e Pepe in a bowl with a fork topped with grated Romano, parmigiano and pepper next to a linen napkin

Cacio e Pepe Is the Best Sauce for Cavatappi

Cavatappi noodles are delightful and go with lots of different pasta sauces, to be honest. And most people make cacio e pepe with long, thin pasta like spaghetti. But! We happen to think that it’s even more delicious on these twisty, twirly little tubes. Why do we love it so? Well, we’re so glad you asked! This recipe rocks because:

  • It’s kid-friendly! Sure, black pepper packs a punch, but if you’re making this yummy, creamy cavatappi recipe for little kids, just go a little light on the pepper. It’ll still be super yummy.

  • It’s quick! There’s some disagreement about the exact origins of Italian cacio e pepe sauce, but it probably dates back many hundreds of years.

  • It’s a little show off-y. Even though it only has a few ingredients, this classic Italian pasta sauce does take a little self-confidence to pull off. It seems like magic—making a creamy sauce without any butter or cream or milk—but the starchy pasta cooking water is the source of the creaminess and we swear, you can make a creamy pasta with just cooking water and cheese. Follow the recipe closely and have faith! It’ll happen.

Creamy Cavatappi Cacio e Pepe 7

More Pasta Sauce Recipes That Would Go Well With Cavatappi

Tools You’ll Need:

homemade Creamy Cavatappi Cacio e Pepe in a bowl with a fork next to a linen napkin and a bag of DeLallo Cavatappi pasta

Buon Appetito!

We hope you adore this recipe and that you love DeLallo cavatappi as much as we truly do! When you whip up this creamy cavatappi recipe, we want to see how it turns out! Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

Creamy Cavatappi Cacio e Pepe

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time:  5 min
  • Cook Time:  15 min
  • Calories: 539

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ¾ pound Delallo cavatappi pasta
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
  • 1¼ cup finely grated Pecorino Romano

Method

  1. Fill a large pot with 4 quarts of water and add 2 teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, according to the package directions, until almost al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water.

  2. About 1 minute before draining the pasta, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is glistening, add the pepper and cook, swirling the pan until fragrant, about 1 minute.

  3. Add ½ cup of the reserved pasta water to the pan and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and add the pasta, Grana Padano, and Pecorino Romano. Using tongs or a wooden spoon, stir until combined and the cheese has melted. Add the remaining pasta water as needed to thin out the sauce.

  4. To serve, sprinkle with more pepper and Grana Padano, if desired.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories539
  • Protein22 g
  • Carbohydrates64 g
  • Total Fat22 g
  • Dietary Fiber3 g
  • Cholesterol41 mg
  • sodium1150 mg
  • Total Sugars3 g

Creamy Cavatappi Cacio e Pepe

Questions & Reviews

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  • Jenn

    crazy simple, crazy delicious! blended my cheese instead of grating it like your IG story, what a time saver!

    So glad you liked it Jenn!