It’s Child’s Play~

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe photo - Beyond the Pasta - Mark Leslie

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

On my most recent trip to Italy I stayed with the Stefanis (the family in my book) and learned a new and very simple recipe ~ Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe.

This recipe is one of the hundreds of classic Italian dishes were you prepare the sauce for the pasta in the time it takes you to cook the pasta. And in this case – you don’t even need to “cook” the sauce. Nothing could be simpler than that, could it?

Cacio e Pepe is one of first dishes that Italian parents feed their children. Grated cheese is combined with salty pasta cooking water and extra virgin olive oil to create a simple cheese “sauce.” When prepared for children, black pepper (pepe) is not used and a little butter may be used instead of olive oil, but for adults, freshly ground black or white pepper is generously added for some spicy heat.

I hope its simplicity and ease will encourage you to take the “under 10-minute cooking time” to prepare this dish for yourself and your family, however you define that, and that it will “bring your family to the table.” That is where you will truly find food at its most satisfying and nourishing ~ for your body and soul. Bring your family to the table and change a life one meal at a time!

Watch my video and see how quick and easy it is~

Let’s start a food dialogue* about what is bringing your family to the table, how this recipe works for you and your discoveries about sitting down at a table together to eat.

Let me know if you have any questions about Italy, Italian food, or if you would like to see me video “demo” something special ~ cooking tips, a favorite Italian dish that you have been dying to make but feel like you need to see someone else “cook” his way through it – I’m up for anything.

I truly want us to start a dialogue and see where it takes us – just like the conversation around a dinner table. Who knows where it will go and what we’ll discover ~ together, like family.

Buon Appetito~ and bring your family to the table!

*Leave me a comment below and let’s start talking~

Here’s the Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe recipe, written out:
This recipe is for 3 to 4 servings, if you’d like 6 to 8 serving, double it.

-8 ounces spaghetti
-1/3 cup grated pecorino cheese
-1/3 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
-2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
-Pinch of salt
-2 tablespoons freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
-Additional grated cheese for garnish

1. Bring a large pot of water to a bowl. Once bowling, add 2 tablespoons salt to the water. Add 8 ounces (half a box – half a pound) of dried pasta (spaghetti) to the boiling, salted water. Stir, and cook following the directions on the box.

2. About 3 minutes before the pasta is done (al dente, tender but firm to the bite), in a large bowl, combine the grated cheeses with a ¼ cup of the boiling, salted pasta cooking water. Stir until the cheese has melted and formed a loose sauce. Stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and continue stirring until it is combined with the cheese/pasta water. Add 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, a pinch of salt, and combine well.

3. Drain the pasta, DO NOT RINSE, and add it to the bowl. Mix until well combined with the cheese mixture. Stir in the flat-leaf parsley.

4. Serve immediately in bowls, and garnish with a little more grated pecorino, Grana Padano, or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

-Serves 3 to 4. Double the recipe to serve 6 to 8.

About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

  1. Kris KendrickKris Kendrick02-07-2011

    Love it! Love the outtake! Love all of it!

  2. KaleighKaleigh02-08-2011

    I love this! I hope you continue to post mini “cooking shows”. Can’t wait to try this one on my husband when he gets back from Iraq next month. In response to what is bringing my family to the table, the other day I made homemade pizza just for my daughter (she is 2, but helped a little) and froze the rest of the dough for later use.

    • Mark LeslieMark Leslie02-09-2011

      Kaleigh, that’s brilliant! I love the fact that you are cooking with her already. Maybe the next generation won’t think that they can only cook with a microwave and that the food has to be processed! Keep bringing her to the table…she’ll thank you for it later in life! I bet you cannot wait for next month. I hope he returns safely and swiftly! A presto~

  3. I love the video Mark! Wonderful. It’s great that you are cooking in your “show kitchen”. I can’t wait to make this for my family. We’ve made other similar dishes but I’ve never used the pasta water like that for a cheese sauce, if you will. Thanks for posting this.

    • Mark LeslieMark Leslie02-09-2011

      Thanks Michelle! Let me know what you think of the pasta. It is a SIMPLE dish…nothing flashy or showy, just simple clean Italian food. Hmmm, “show kitchen” ~ maybe some day there will be a show in my kitchen, how fun would that be?! Buon Appetito~

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.