Dinner for One: Cacio e Pepe

in Dinner

Cacio e Pepe

One year ago, on Valentine’s Day, I could’ve sworn I was going to die alone. And I might die alone, who knows, but right now it feels like I might be OK, which feels great! and hopeful!

Two years ago, on Valentine’s Day, I went to dinner with my best friend, Teri, and the server thought we were a lesbian couple. It kind of made us chuckle.

Here’s the thing about Valentine’s Day: I get that it’s about love, cupid and chocolate or whatever, but it’s kind of an exclusive holiday.

It’s like, if you’re psyched to be in a relationship, married, etc., then it’s awesome. And if you’re single and excited to be single, then it’s sort of just an ignored holiday. But, if you’re single and you don’t want to be single, then Valentine’s Day is an annoying holiday.

Since I think exclusivity is just stupid, I’ve made you a dish for you to make for yourself.

Dinner for one is my absolute favorite. I eat alone often and honestly, I kind of love it. Terrible TV, my couch and a bowl of food makes me so, SO happy.

But eating for one can be kind of tricky. Here are a few thoughts:

1. When eating for one, you never want to make anything with too many ingredients. Too many ingredients equals dropping lots of money at the grocery store. There have been times where I went in to buy dinner for myself and left spending $30. I mean, I can just go out to dinner for that much, you know?

2. Dinner for one shouldn’t take a ton of time. I don’t mind spending a little time, or being careful with how I’m preparing something but I just don’t want to be in the kitchen for like 2 hours. No.

Cacio e Pepe is the most idyllic dinner for one.

There are only four (main) ingredients: butter, lots of black pepper, cheese and pasta.

Most super simple dishes are simple and perfect because each ingredient is carefully chosen and the dish is made to a T.

This dish definitely isn’t inexpensive, but good-quality pasta (in my case I used bucatini) and nice Pecorino cheese go a long way. They’re worth a little splurge.

As for making this dish, it only takes about 15-20 minutes. But in those 15 minutes or so, you gotta pay close attention. Good Cacio e Pepe is clump-free, has a smooth butter/cheese sauce that coasts the pasta and is super, super peppery.

This is almost like a grown-up, Italian version of the butter/cheese pasta we ate as kids.

Treat yo’ self!

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe

Print this recipe!

3 ounces pasta of choice (spaghetti or bucatini)
12-14 black peppercorns
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup reserved pasta water
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino, plus more for garnish

1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook just shy of al dente. (We’re going to cook the pasta for 1-2 minutes later.) Reserving 1/4 cup pasta water, drain the pasta in a colander and set both aside.

2. To a medium skillet, toast the peppercorns until they become fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer them to a mortar and pestle and crush until coarse. Alternatively, you could transfer the peppercorns to a pepper grinder, OR you could wrap the peppercorns in plastic wrap and crush the heck out of them with the back of a skillet (that isn’t hot!).

3. To the same medium skillet, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add a few pinches of pepper, 2 tablespoons pasta water and cheese; stir continuously until the cheese is melted and the sauce starts to come together, about 2 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium-low, add the pasta to the skillet and toss gently in the sauce until evenly coated. The cheese will be slightly clumpy; using a fork, stir the pasta vigorously for an additional minute or so, until the clumsiness disappears. If the pasta is slightly dry, add a teaspoon or two of pasta water until it’s the consistency of your liking. Serve immediately and top with a sprinkle more of pepper and a few small (or large!) pinches of cheese.

Serves 1

Cacio e Pepe

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim @ Soliloquy Of Food & Such February 12, 2013 at 12:37 am

Bucatini is my favorite pasta. This is pure comfort in a bowl, with cheese.

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Lauren February 12, 2013 at 1:41 am

This is definitely my type of dish. I can’t wait to try it out.

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Margherita February 12, 2013 at 1:46 am

My friend Francesca came over the other night to cook cacio & pepe the other night.
Talking about coincidences!

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RICK MENDOZA February 12, 2013 at 3:48 am

yumm

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Julie February 12, 2013 at 4:55 am

way to be single and loving it! content is the best way to be, and who says you need to have a “date” to have a great valentine’s day? all you need is some chocolate to finish off your pasta with!

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Bev @ Bev Cooks February 12, 2013 at 6:47 am

This is my absolute favorite thing ever and I looooove eating alone. Now I’m starving.

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aoife @ the gannet February 12, 2013 at 6:55 am

I love meals for one! That bit of time to devote totally to treating yourself, not worry about the other person’s quirks and more importantly eat like a total slobber monster (but that could be just me….)

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Anastasia February 12, 2013 at 7:06 am

This looks so good thanks for sharing this!

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Kory February 12, 2013 at 7:14 am

yum! I’m going to be spending Valentine’s Day alone (and I’m totally fine with it!). and This just might be the perfect dish for the occasion.

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Brittany b February 12, 2013 at 7:51 am

I just tried to make this via your recipe and utterly failed! I’m not sure if I did something wrong, but the cheese would NOT mix with the butter. I tried all kinds of things like adding more cheese, adding flour, etc. but it turned into this crazy mess. Do you have any tips for the future? Is it supposed to not mix well?

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Adrianna February 12, 2013 at 8:42 am

Blah! I’m sorry you had trouble. The cheese won’t melt into the sauce completely, the butter/cheese sauce will just start to come together, then you add the pasta and keep mixing it in the sauce. The clumpiness will go away after about 30 seconds of stirring.

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Adrianna February 12, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Ok. I just retested this and I have some tweaks (that I’ve added to the recipe) but I did have success. I think the most important part is the stirring of the pasta in the sauce. It was clumpy at first but I just kept stirring for about a minute, and it came together. Hope this helps!

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Sarah February 12, 2013 at 8:26 am

looks divine! i know what you mean about cooking for one. random tidbit: in korean culture, singles eat black bean noodles on v-day w/friends so you don’t feel so alone… isn’t that funny?

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Little Kitchie February 12, 2013 at 8:30 am

I make cacio e pepe all the time! It’s at the tip top of my comfort foods. YUM!

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Christina @ The Beautiful Balance February 12, 2013 at 8:59 am

Love bucatini pasta! This looks incredible. Such simple flavors and so easy to throw together. I hope you have an amazing Valentine’s Day!

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Yana Puaca February 12, 2013 at 9:13 am

I just love this- one of my favorite pasta dishes. Sophistication comes in the simplest of forms. Couldn’t be more true. Thanks for sharing!

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Jim February 12, 2013 at 9:20 am

Real cacio e pepe is prepared with ZERO butter.

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Adrianna February 12, 2013 at 9:24 am

Butter makes everything better, Jim.

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bonnie February 12, 2013 at 10:30 am

Yes!

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Amy @ Elephant Eats February 12, 2013 at 9:32 am

Can’t go wrong with those ingredients…looks amazing. In this case eating alone works to your benefit because you dont’ have to share ;)

Sometimes $30 isn’t so bad to spend at the market if it will last you a few meals, assuming you dont’ have a problem with leftovers. That’s usually what I end up doing.

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Erica February 12, 2013 at 9:38 am

Cacio e pepe is one of my favourite dishes and, its true, absolutely perfect when you’re eating alone. I might just make it for myself after work!

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kelsey February 12, 2013 at 9:51 am

yum! i am loving those bowls and this dish looks totally yummy
kw, ladies in navy

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Lauren Bux February 12, 2013 at 9:53 am

Girl, your pulling on my heart strings! Butter, cheese and carbs? FABULOUS!

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a farmer in the dell February 12, 2013 at 10:30 am

this is comfort food at its absolute best!

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Sue/the view from great island February 12, 2013 at 11:33 am

I adore this dish, and it’s the ultimate ‘eating for one’ food. I also agree that exclusivity is stupid—Happy Valentine’s Day <3

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Eileen February 12, 2013 at 11:34 am

Now, see, this pasta sounds perfect for anyone, whether they’re having a celebratory dinner with their SO or hanging out in their pajamas in front of the tv. :) Pepper and parmesan, together at last!

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Maren February 12, 2013 at 11:45 am

My girlfriends and I call Valentines Day National Single Person Awareness Day. LOL.

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jacquie February 12, 2013 at 12:07 pm

i agree completely with your sediments regarding valentine’s day. thanks for the recipe it looks great. pair it w/ a nice wine, some salad and finish w/ chocolate – we deserve it after all – right?

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Adrianna February 12, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Totally deserve it!

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Arthur in the Garden! February 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Looks very yummy and I may have this for dinner – tonight!

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Libby February 12, 2013 at 12:37 pm

This might be perfect for MY solo Valentine dinner!

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Adrianna February 13, 2013 at 11:42 am

Yay Libby, yay!

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Denise | TLT February 12, 2013 at 12:56 pm

I live alone and have dinner alone pretty often, and I totally agree with you about how good that can be. There’s no pressure to make a good impression and somehow that often creates the most wonderful meals:)
I’m always in for a good bowl of Cacio e Pepe, there’s little more comforting than that cheesy pasta. And I love you for adding butter to your gorgeous version, it just makes it better!

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Posie February 12, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Love this! Reminds me of that scene with Mandy Moore from Because I Said So when she makes herself a lovely bowl of pasta and glass of wine in her gorgeous kitchen while on the phone with Diane Keaton. Good to treat yourself well with food even when (especially when?) alone.

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chefgonin February 12, 2013 at 1:21 pm

mmmm interesting recipes, good pictures, very tasty resemble the Mediterranean cuisine which we do in Spain. We invite you to visit my blog from Spain, with traditional recipes from the State of Valencia.
This week “The Giraboix” in http://valenciagastronomic.blogspot.com.es
Going to lose?

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Maria February 12, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Great recipe! I like how simple it is. This reminds me of a more upscale version of what my friends and I made when we studied abroad in Paris: “Poverty Pasta.” None of us had much of a budget (Paris is expensive!) to spend on food, so we made pasta with olive oil and added a lot of red pepper flake and that was it! This reminds me of it because it looks really simple yet delicious. The Pecorino really makes this not poverty pasta, though, lol!

Also, my best friend in college and I used to go to restaurants together on Valentine’s as a tradition. We affectionately referred to them as Lesbian Dates.

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cyndi February 12, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Perfect timing! Decided to shop our pantry for dinner so I didn’t have to run to the store and this is one of our favorite dishes from Lupa in NYC. Can’t wait to dig into this steaming bowl of happy pasta on a dreary, cold, rainy night. Thank you!!!

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Michelle February 12, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Eating alone is pretty dang awesome. Pasta like this is one of my favs!

I have two equally awesome V-Day stories. The same guy and I have been together for years, but we kind of hate V-Day. We call it, Happy We Still Need to Eat Dinner Day. People cannot fathom the fact that we’re committed and not into it. As a lady, I think they’re even more skeptical of my feelings toward it.

At dinner two years ago at a completely empty Thai place (they even decorated with streamers and heart shaped balloons! Ha!), boyfriend excused himself at the end of the meal to the bathroom. For a long while. I proceeded to watch the staff take pity on me and get uncomfortable. They thought I was dined and ditched on V-Day! It was really funny.

At dinner last year, we went to Ethiopian food (conveniently next door to the Thai place — I think it’s a sign), and the star of the show was the guy they brought in to sit in the front of the restaurant with a sweet Casio keyboard and play cheesy instrumental love songs. I was laughing hysterically between bites of food.

Hilarity will ensue when you least expect it.

/longest comment ever

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Stefanie @ Sarcastic Cooking February 12, 2013 at 2:53 pm

I am in! I love eating alone. The trouble is always make enough food for like 10 people and then feel obligated to eat a lot of it. This pasta is so simple and perfect for any night!

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Tina February 12, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Haha love the story behind this. You never cease to amaze me:) glad ur spending this vday with lots of love. You are one cool gal :)

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Jillian February 12, 2013 at 4:42 pm

I have loved this dish ever since I studied in Italy!! I recently made a version out of Martha Stewart Living, with a bit if lemon juice in there… OHHHHH man was it good! The lemon perked it up just the right amount. Thanks for featuring this recipe though, I love these classic Italian dishes and I love me some thick pasta like bucatini! :)

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Adrianna February 12, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Oh I love the sound of the lemon! I’ll need to try that next time.

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Jayne February 12, 2013 at 6:18 pm

I had this very recently and utterly loved it! Such a simple brunch idea when all you want to do is sleep in and do as little as possible in the kitchen.

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Lauren February 13, 2013 at 6:36 am

This looks delicious. Sometimes, making a great classic meal like this is the best!

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karen February 13, 2013 at 6:42 am

although I’m 24 & have been single my entire life, I still love V-day! I love the pink, the hearts, the frills, the chocolate, everything! In mexico we call it the day of love & friendship and I love to do things with friends.

Last year my sister, me, and our two bffs went out for sushi, watched breakfast at tiffany’s at a local theatre, then split a chocolate cake from von’s [we ended up eating 3/4 of it, no joke]. it was one of the best nights of my life! I think more people should enjoy it instead of being bitter.

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Adrianna February 13, 2013 at 11:43 am

Karen, you make me smile!

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Bob February 13, 2013 at 11:37 am

Such a simple recipe yet it looks so delicious. Thank you for sharing.

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Cass @foodmyfriend February 13, 2013 at 8:04 pm

You are so cute :P Such a great single Valentines Day meal! I have booked a restaurant for tonight for the simple fact that I don’t wanna cook.!

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Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe February 13, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Love this. Will try it out soon!

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Margaret February 14, 2013 at 11:03 am

Spot on Valentine’s Day sentiments. And I will definitely be having that for dinner….

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Dana February 14, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Perfect simple dishes like this are great for dining alone, or dining for two.

When I’m cooking for just myself, I tend to break out my guilty pleasures, maybe some baked brie on baguette. Yum! It’s nice to relish in a little meal by yourself once in a while.

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Natashia@foodonpaper February 16, 2013 at 8:26 pm

I like making this type of dish with paprika and chill instead of pepper (not a big fan of it!), and it’s the best when you make a big bowl just for one!

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Barbara February 18, 2013 at 9:58 am

Food to soothe the weary soul, for certain, but I would add a salad to it. Sometimes I’d use Penzy’s Spices Arizona Dreaming for Tex-Mex soul food satisfaction instead of cheese, and add some fresh home-made salsa on the side, or their very garlicky and wonderful Sandwich Sprinkles and the cheese. There – that’s three times in a week that it would be wonderful.

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Rach February 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm

This looks absolutely delicious! I’m terrible about cooking for one. If it’s just me then I’m usually like “oh look at this nice box of cereal…” haha! ;)

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Nadette@Sin Mayonesa Por Favor February 22, 2013 at 1:30 pm

It’s funny, when I lived alone I didn’t mind spending 2 hours for a solo dinner. But now I have roommates…and it’s like lord of the flies competing for kitchen time. And I work crazy stupid hours. This. Is. GENIUS.

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Jayda @LittleRedPixxxi July 2, 2013 at 7:32 am

I recently discovered your blog and have fallen in love with your photographs and writing, last night I made this dish- simple enough for an evening full of laundry and cleaning for a single person. Amazing! My quick comfort food has traditionally been a “birds nest” – orzo, green peas and grated cheese with black pepper, thyme, truffle oil, red pepper and this dish really hit the mark for me. I will definitely be making and sharing this dish. Although I may add red pepper and lemon zest.. and truffle oil ;)

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Diane GG July 4, 2013 at 1:37 pm

don’t stop with the dinner for one recipes! to many recipes have me up to my eyeballs in Tupperware contained leftovers. I like being a single Lady and its so refreshing to see a recipe that isn’t full of suggestions on what to feed a husband/offspring.
THANK YOU

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Adrianna Adarme July 5, 2013 at 10:02 am

HAHA! No kids on this blog. Maybe some day but not now. ;) And more recipes for one to come!

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Melia February 12, 2014 at 11:34 am

I love eating alone too! Obvs not all the time, but particularly on weeknights when I’ve had a DAY at work and just want some quiet time and not have to account to anyone or explain my feelings about my day. My friends think it’s so weird, but I think it’s liberating, especially eating alone in public. So many people won’t do it but I’m just like what’s the big deal? I’m here, by myself, maybe I’m taking myself out because I can!

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