10 Ways to Take Cacio e Pepe Way Beyond Pasta

The classic Roman combination of cheese and pepper is good for so much more than pasta.
Related To:

Photo By: Diana Yen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Diana Yen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Diana Yen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Diana Yen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Diana Yen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Diana Yen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Diana Yen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Diana Yen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Diana Yen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Diana Yen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Diana Yen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Diana Yen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Catch All of the Cacio

Literally meaning "cheese and pepper" in Italian, cacio e pepe is arguably the simplest pasta dish you could ever cook, and it comes together with ingredients you probably already have on hand. Each al dente strand is slicked with olive oil and coated with a union of freshly cracked black pepper and grated Pecorino Romano (plus a little Parmigiano-Reggiano, if you do it our way).

But pasta isn't all that this marriage is good for. We extended this cheesy, peppery flavor profile to cover lots more, including home-baked biscuits and gooey grilled cheese.

Photography by Diana Yen

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

Let's start with the basics. Cacio e pepe is a beloved Roman dish made with things you can easily find in your pantry, but there are as many ways to make it as there are cooks in Italy. In this version, olive oil adds a little grassiness, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, in addition to the classic Pecorino Romano, is used to round out the flavors and add an umami richness. If you don't have Parmigiano in the house, simply make the dish with all Pecorino and lower the salt in your pasta water by a tablespoon.

Get the Recipe: Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe Biscuits

Basic baking powder biscuits get a cacio e pepe makeover with the addition of spicy, buttery Pecorino Romano cheese and floral freshly cracked black pepper. The biscuits are ideal for splitting and making breakfast sandwiches, as a side served next to roasted beef or chicken, or even alongside a salad topped with bacon and a poached egg for lunch.

Get the Recipe: Cacio e Pepe Biscuits

Cacio e Pepe Grilled Cheese

Make a sandwich with 2 pieces of white bread and 3 slices (about 2 1/2 ounces total) of a semisoft cheese such as Pecorino Toscano, Manchego or provolone. Melt 1 tablespoon butter and 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. When the butter is foamy, sprinkle 1 teaspoon grated Pecorino Romano and 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper into the pan. Place the sandwich on the pepper mixture and cook until the bread is toasted, about 3 minutes. Repeat the process with the oil, butter, cheese and black pepper on the other side and cook until the bread is golden-brown and the cheese has melted, 3 minutes more.

Baked Cacio e Pepe Dip

Combine 12 ounces cream cheese, 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano and 1/4 cup heavy cream in a food processor and season with 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper; puree until smooth. Brush a 1-quart baking dish with some olive oil, then spread the cheese mixture in the dish. Sprinkle the top with a pinch of cracked black pepper. Bake at 400 degrees F until heated through, about 15 minutes (the dip will not be golden on top). Serve warm with baguette slices, crackers or crudites.

Cacio e Pepe Garlic Bread

Cut a 12-ounce loaf of Italian bread in half lengthwise. Combine 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic and 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper in a bowl. Spread evenly on the cut sides of the bread and bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Mix together 1/4 cup each grated Parmesan and Pecorino Romano. Sprinkle on the bread evenly and top with another 3/4 teaspoon black pepper. Bake until the cheese melts, 10 minutes more.

Cacio e Pepe Popcorn

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave or in a small pan. Stir in 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil to heat through. Toss immediately with 10 cups freshly popped popcorn (from about 1 bag or 1/3 cup kernels). Add 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano and 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper and toss thoroughly.

Cacio e Pepe Baked Potatoes

Toss 4 small russet potatoes in a bowl with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper until completely coated. Bake at 400 degrees F until fork-tender, about 45 minutes. Cut an X partway through the top of each potato, then pinch and press the sides to mash some of the flesh and open the potatoes. Divide 4 tablespoons unsalted butter among the potatoes, then sprinkle each potato with 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano and 1/8 teaspoon more freshly cracked black pepper. Dollop each potato with 2 tablespoons sour cream, then top each with 1 tablespoon more Pecorino Romano and a pinch of pepper.

Cacio e Pepe Pita Chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut 2 pocketless pitas into 12 thin wedges each and transfer to a bowl. Drizzle over 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper. Toss to coat, then spread the pita wedges onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle the wedges evenly with 1/4 cup finely shredded Pecorino Romano, then bake until golden brown and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. 

Roasted Cauliflower Cacio e Pepe

Cut one 2-pound head of cauliflower into 1 1/2-inch florets. Toss with 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 teaspoons black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Roast at 450 degrees F on a rimmed baking sheet, stirring halfway through, until tender and brown around the edges, 30 to 40 minutes. While hot, toss with 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano and serve. 

Cacio e Pepe Scrambled Eggs

Lightly beat 8 large eggs, 3/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper in a medium bowl. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium nonstick skillet over low heat; swirl to coat the bottom and sides. Add the eggs and cook slowly, scraping them up with a rubber spatula occasionally, until most of the liquid has thickened and the eggs are soft, about 10 minutes. (If you like your eggs a little firmer, cook them for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.) Remove them from the heat, and gently fold in 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano. Top the eggs with 1 more tablespoon Pecorino Romano and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper. Serve hot.

Savory Oatmeal Cacio e Pepe

Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats and cook, stirring, until the oats are tender and the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 cup finely shredded Pecorino Romano, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter. Stir until the cheese and butter melt (the cheese will not melt completely), then divide among 4 serving bowls. Top each serving with another tablespoon Pecorino Romano and a pinch of cracked black pepper and serve immediately.