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25 Cacio e Pepe Recipes You’ve Never Tried Before (Because Cheese and Pepper Work with Just About Everything)

It doesn’t matter the occasion: A bowl of cacio e pepe (meaning “cheese and pepper” in Italian) is always a good idea. While you might be used to preparing it with traditional pasta, there are limitless ingredients that lend themselves to this salty, savory treatment. Read on for 25 cacio e pepe recipes that you’ll be salivating over in no time, ranging from riffs on the classic noodle dish to mouth-watering sides and snacks.

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1. Cacio e Pepe Pasta

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, vegetarian, kid-friendly

Let’s start with the O.G., shall we? All the comfort classic requires is five pantry staples and 20 minutes of your time to come together.

2. Cacio e Pepe Cauliflower

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, crowd-pleaser, <10 ingredients, vegetarian

All of the flavor, minus the carb-loaded noodles. This creamy, dreamy side pairs well with just about everything, but our fave match is roast chicken.

3. Cacio e Pepe Brussels Sprouts

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, <10 ingredients, vegetarian, special occasion-worthy

If the kids' table leaves their veggies untouched every Thanksgiving, there's a good chance this autumn side could change that.

4. Asparagus, Peas and Cucumber ‘Cacio e Pepe’

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, vegetarian, gluten free

Crisp asparagus, refreshing cukes and spring peas take over for pasta in this citrus-kissed main. Might we suggest topping it with prosciutto to make it more filling?

5. Cacio e Pepe Zucchini

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, vegetarian, sheet pan recipe

Beware: Serve this four-ingredient breeze of a side dish once and you'll be asked to make it for every barbecue you ever host.

6. Cacio e Pepe Pasta Pie

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, vegetarian, special occasion-worthy, kid-friendly

Add some crunch to your cacio e pepe with the help of a trio of cheeses (Parm! mozz! Asiago!) and your oven.

7. Cacio e Pepe Popcorn

  • Time Commitment: 5 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, vegetarian, kid-friendly

Movie night just got a lot more exciting. If you don't have a microwave or air popper, go the route of the recipe's ingenious paper bag method.

8. Cacio e Pepe Risotto

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes
  • Why We Love It: beginner-friendly, special occasion-worthy, vegetarian

How does this already decadent dish get its drool-worthy creamy consistency, you ask? Chalk it up to mascarpone cheese.

9. Pumpkin Cacio e Pepe

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: beginner-friendly, special occasion-worthy, vegetarian

Consider this our new favorite way to use canned pumpkin puree. Grated nutmeg drives the autumn theme home.

10. Grilled Romaine Salad with Cacio e Pepe Chickpeas and Herb Dressing

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly

The garlicky dressing is yogurt-based and packed with fresh lemon and three types of herbs, yet somehow the cheesy chickpeas just might be our favorite part.

11. Oven Roasted or Air Fryer Crispy Cacio e Pepe Chickpeas

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly, <10 ingredients, <30 minutes

You're only four pantry staples away from this irresistibly tasty snack. Make it ahead of any dinner party you host and serve it once your guests arrive as an easy-yet-elegant app.

12. Zucchini Cacio e Pepe with Brown Butter

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy

Brown butter—or as we like to call it, liquid gold—makes everything a million times tastier with its sultry, nutty flavor, including summer squash.

13. Cacio e Pepe Roasted Cauliflower

  • Time Commitment: 50 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy, beginner-friendly

The trick to this take on cacio cauli is going foil-free on the baking sheet. This helps it get as crunchy as possible, plus results in tiny petals of golden-brown cheese (aka the best part).

14. Creamy Lemon Cacio e Pepe

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, beginner-friendly

Pasta limone x cacio e pepe, the remix. Heavy cream, pasta water and grated Parm and Pecorino cheeses turn the sauce impossibly rich.

15. Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Lemon and Parmesan

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: no cook, <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, beginner-friendly, make ahead

Yup, raw Brussels sprouts are a thing—and they deserve your undivided attention. Since they're shaved, they'll be tender and easy to chew, even without cooking them.

16. Lemon, Parmesan and Black Pepper Popcorn

  • Time Commitment: 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, beginner-friendly, kid-friendly

Lemon zest offers the seasoning mix its brightness, but you can always substitute lemon pepper for extra punch. (We're adding crushed red pepper flakes to ours, too.)

17. Vegan Cacio e Pepe

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegan, dairy free, <10 ingredients, <30 minutes

All it takes is a few key substitutions, like vegan butter and dairy-free Parmesan. (You could use olive oil and nutritional yeast in their place if you'd prefer.)

18. Tomato Confit Cacio e Pepe

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, vegetarian, special occasion-worthy

Tomatoes are cooked on the stovetop in olive oil until jammy and blistered, then transformed into a bright, luxurious sauce when combined with cheese and pasta water. Drooling yet?

19. One Pot Cacio e Pepe Israeli Couscous

  • Time Commitment: 25 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, special occasion-worthy, <10 ingredients, vegetarian

The ingredients couldn't be any simpler for this brag-worthy side dish. The only fussy one on the list is chopped parsley, which makes for a fresh finishing touch.

20. Creamy Cacio e Pepe Greens and Pasta

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: beginner-friendly, vegetarian

Take your pick of collards, kale, spinach or Swiss chard for this veggie-heavy pasta. (Don't worry, it's still packed with mascarpone, ricotta, Parmesan and Romano cheeses for good measure.)

21. 4-Ingredient Cacio e Pepe Udon

  • Time Commitment: 5 minutes
  • Why We Love It: beginner-friendly, vegetarian, <10 ingredients, <30 minutes

A simple swap of noodles totally changes the classic dish. Udon noodles are not only chewier, but they also cook to toothsome perfection in five minutes flat.

22. Zucchini Noodle-Bacon Cacio e Pepe

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, gluten free, low carb, keto-friendly, <30 minutes

Balance is everything, and this take on cacio e pepe—which trades pasta for spiralized zucchini, but also includes bacon—is proof.

23. Instant Pot Cacio e Pepe with Crispy Garlic-Basil Chickpeas

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, Instant Pot recipe, <30 minutes

This might be the easiest crispy chickpea recipe you've ever tried. Instead of being roasted in the oven, they're cooked in a large skillet with garlic, oil and fresh basil until crunchy.

24. Cacio e Pepe Pie

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 10 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, special occasion-worthy, <10 ingredients

Instead of traditional Pecorino or commonly substituted Parmesan, this baked masterpiece stars provolone, mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

25. Cacio e Pepe with Arugula and Lemon

  • Time Commitment: 25 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly, <10 ingredients, <30 minutes

Arugula, lemon zest and torn basil cut right through the creamy, cheesy pasta with their vegetal freshness and acidity.

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For even more great recipes, check out our first cookbook, Only the Good Stuff.

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s associate food editor. A former bartender and barista, she’s been writing about all things delicious since 2016, developing recipes, reviewing restaurants and investigating food trends at Food52, New Jersey Family Magazine and Taste Talks. When she isn’t testing TikTok’s latest viral recipe, she’s having popcorn for dinner and posting about it on Instagram @cookingwithpire.