Heidi’s Sunday Suppers Making Easy Cacio e Pepe

Too many years ago now, Tom and I joined friends and took a trip to Italy. Our first stop was Rome and our first meal, a classic Roman pasta dish, cacio e pepe.

Not the photo from Rome, but instead the cacio e pepe photo from today’s recipe

This is a dish where fresh cooked pasta is dressed, quiet simply with Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper. Deliziosa!

Cooking with Locally-Made, Gluten Free Pasta

In keeping with the theme of my Gluten Free finds round up in yesterday’s National Gluten Free Day post, today I am making cacio e pepe using a pasta that is 100% gluten free and happily, 100% delicious.

And, best part is, it’s all local; made by Chef Raffaele Petrizzi of Mano Bella Artisan Foods in Charlotte and crafted from the same Tidewater Grain Company Carolina Gold Rice rice flour I’ve often mentioned on these digital pages.

When I met to chat with Chef Raffaele about the pasta, watch that video interview here. After we talked, Raffaele showed me how to make authentic cacio e pepe. I took his new Gluten Free pasta home and made this recipe to rave reviews. You will love it too. All you need is your pasta of choice; some of the pasta water, a handful ( maybe more of Pecorino Romano cheese and fresh ground pepper.

Heidi’s Notes on this recipe for Cacio e Pepe

  • While no one in Rome will agree with me, I’m giving you permission to substitute aged Parmigiana Reggiano from Italy for the Pecorino Romano, if the Romano is a hard find.
  • Pasta water is an important component of this recipe. Be sure to thoroughly salt the water before you add the pasta.
  • DO NOT add oil to your pasta water
  • DO NOT rinse your pasta after it cooks
  • DO NOT add oil to your pasta after it cooks
  • If your tap water has a taste, I suggest using Le Bleu water from Advance NC in the recipe. Read More about the why, here.
  • Even if you don’t follow a gluten free diet, you should absolutely try Mano Bella’s new Gluten Free Rice Flour pasta – its truly amazing and you’d never guess it was gluten free.
  • The fresh pasta here only cooks for 1 min and 15 seconds. DON’T OVERCOOK.
  • For the perfect peppery flavor for this recipe, Rafaele suggests toasting whole peppercorns first. Use a small frying pan and place the peppercorns in the pan. I think it’s important to mention that no oil is needed. Swirl the peppercorns in the pan over high heat until they become aromatic. The heat will help them to release their natural oils. This gives the pepper more flavor. As soon as you can smell the pepper, take it out of the pan. Allow it to cool and grind to a course or fine grind.
  • Even though black pepper is traditionally called for, you might want to try my Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend instead. Not any hotter than black pepper, just more flavorful. And you can grind it in a coffee grinder. Find the recipe below.

First Let’s Prep the Peppercorns

How to Make Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend – I use equal amounts of tellicherry, pink reunion and lampong peppercorns. Add coriander seeds for a slightly citrusy edge. The grind them all up in a coffee grinder. Note – this recipe won’t work in a table top grinder as the pink reunion peppercorns are too soft. Stick with the coffee grinder for best results. When you are done, just grind up a tablespoon or so of fresh coffee beans. Once the coffee is ground, toss it in the compost bin. Your coffee grinder will be free of any peppery residue and your ready for coffee tomorrow morning.

Heidi Billotto

Shop Local for everything you need

This pasta recipe is perfect for family or friends. That’s why I’m dubbing it a great Sunday Supper. Add a fresh green salad and a nice bottle of wine and you’ve got dinner done. Everything you need for the meal, the pasta and the greens for the salad ( as well as flowers for the table) are all available when you shop locally at area Saturday morning farmers markets.

In Charlotte, find Mano Bella Artisan Foods ( and Raffaele’s new Gluten Free pasta) on Saturdays at these Charlotte area markets. Check each market’s website for Winter and seasonal hours.

While you are at the markets, shop local from all the other farmers and producers. You’ll be able to find everything else you need for the week.

Note: While you are shopping: You’ll also be able to find ManoBella’s risotto mixes at the markets and at his store. These are made from Tidewater Grain Company Carolina Gold Rice. The results are delicious as well, and oh so easy. Just add water and you’ve got another dinner done! #TellThemHeidiSentYou

Cacio e Pepe


  • 1 package Mano Bella Gluten Free pasta or substute your favorite gluten full pasta, if you would like (ManoBella sells those too!)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup pasta water salted
  • 1-2 Tbsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1 cup fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese


  1. Heat the water for the pasta and salt well.

  2. Use a pasta insert or fine wire mesh strainer in the pot to make removing the pasta from the water even easier

  3. When the water comes to a boil, add your pasta all at once. Note: THERE IS NO NEED TO ADD OIL TO THE WATER

  4. Cook the pasta according to package directions. If you are using Mano Bella's new gluten free pasta, only cook for 1 min and 15 seconds

  5. Drain the pasta from the boiling water. DO NOT RINSE

  6. Preheat a saute pan on high heat. Add a 1/2 cup or so of the pasta water to the hot pan and then REMOVE THE PAN FROM THE HEAT

  7. Working quickly, add the hot cooked pasta to the pan. Add the ground pepper to taste and toss; then add the grated cheese. Toss to blend

  8. Pour into serving dishes, sprinkling on a bit more cheese if you would like.

  9. Enjoy immediately! Cheers!


  1. Cacio e pepe was the very first meal (lunch) we had on our first day in Italy in 2011. How could anything be so simple, yet so delicious?!

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