This 3-Ingredient Cacio e Pepe Convinced Me I Never Need to Cook With Heavy Cream Again

POPSUGAR Photography | Emily Weaver
POPSUGAR Photography | Emily Weaver

I would bend over backwards for a plate of creamy, cheesy pasta any day of the week. Unfortunately, I'm the world's worst cook when it comes to pasta recipes that include milk, heavy cream, or any kind of meticulous cheese-melting process. It's not just because I'm an impatient cook, but I always somehow find a way to mess it up. At least I know where my weakness is in the kitchen, right?

If you can relate, then you'll love TikToker Pina Bresciani's three-ingredient cacio e pepe recipe, which only calls for spaghetti, black peppercorns, and pecorino romano. (For my Trader Joe's shoppers: you can find pecorino romano already finely grated among the international cheeses.) I know what you're thinking, How can you make a creamy pasta without the cream? In the video, Pina explains that pasta water gives off enough starch that nothing else is needed to help create the creamy consistency you're after. The pasta water is the secret ingredient to perfecting every step.

This authentic Italian meal takes less than 30 minutes to make, but your guests will think you spent the entire evening in the kitchen. So uncork a bottle of wine, play some pasta-making tunes, and transport yourself to Italy with this delicious recipe.

POPSUGAR Photography | Emily Weaver
POPSUGAR Photography | Emily Weaver
POPSUGAR Photography | Emily Weaver
POPSUGAR Photography | Emily Weaver
POPSUGAR Photography | Emily Weaver
POPSUGAR Photography | Emily Weaver

Cacio e Pepe

Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Yield2 servings

TikTok user Pina Bresciani (@pinacooks)


    • 1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
    • 2 1/2 cups pecorino romano, finely grated
    • 250 grams spaghetti
    • Salt for the pasta water


    1. Boil a shallow amount of water in a pot over high heat. Add salt. While waiting for the water to boil, finely grate the pecorino romano. In a small bowl, grind up the peppercorns to a very fine consistency. Set 1 1/2 teaspoons aside.

    2. Once the water is boiling, add the spaghetti — but only cook it for half the amount of time it says on the package. Meanwhile, toast the 1 1/2 teaspoons of peppercorn in a saucepan over medium heat for one minute. Be careful not to burn it.

    3. Add a ladle of pasta water to the toasted peppercorn. Then, add the spaghetti to the saucepan and allow it to finish cooking over medium heat (this is called "risottare"). Every few seconds, move the noodles around with a pair of tongs and shake the pan, adding more of the pasta water as needed.

    4. Meanwhile, mix together the grated pecorino romano and half a ladle of water with a fork until it has a paste consistency. Set aside.

    5. When the spaghetti is al dente, remove from heat. Allow it to sit for 30 seconds. Then add the pecorino romano mixture and incorporate with tongs, using fast movements so it melts in with the noodles and starchy liquid. It should be a creamy consistency with no clumps of cheese.

    6. Serve on a plate, top with more fresh pepper (and cheese) if desired, and enjoy!