Bucatini Cacio e Pepe (Roman Sheep Herder’s Pasta)

Bucatini cacio e pepe.

Bucatini Cacio e Pepe is a traditional Roman sheep herder’s pasta recipe.  It is about as simple as it gets since you’ll need only four very basic ingredients. Those are bucatini pasta, black peppercorns, Pecorino Romano cheese, and some of the pasta cooking water. It looks and sounds easy to make but even the most seasoned cooks sometimes get tripped up on this one.

The trick is all must be made simultaneously! The actual dish must be made quickly once the pasta is nearly done.  Furthermore, making a delicate cheese sauce with only water and peppercorns can add an element of difficulty if certain steps aren’t followed. To keep the cheese sauce from clumping up the sauce should be added to the pasta off the heat. There is no need to “cook” the cheese.  The residual heat from the pasta with the addition of the hot pasta water is enough heat to create that delicious cacio e pepe creamy texture that you’re looking for.

Also, in this cacio e pepe recipe, I added some caciocavallo cheese (cheese on horseback) that is popular in southern Italy. This cheese has a different melting temperature than the Pecorino. Therefore I add the cheeses separately. First, make the traditional cacio e peppe cream with the Pecorino Romano cheese, and once that is perfect quickly toss in the caciocavallo cheese (always off the heat) adding a little hot pasta water to maintain a nice thick yet creamy sauce consistency.  If you can’t find caciocavallo cheese just use all Pecorino Romano. Traditionally, this cheese is the only cheese used to make cacio e pepe so you’ll still be well on your way to making an authentic Roman sheep heard’s pasta — cacio e pepe!