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Cacio e Pepe: Everything You Need To Know About The Italian Specialty Dish

Cacio e Pepe is a simple Roman dish that has become one of America's most prevalent dishes, but how did it achieve this feat, and where did it really come from? Keep reading to find out.

By Cookist
  • Cacio e pepe is a traditional Italian pasta recipe made of spaghetti, cacio, pepper and salt.
  • Cacio is a typical pecorino romano cheese, that is made from sheep's milk.
  • This dish was created from the shepherds' need to eat quickly and conveniently while out grazing.

Cacio e Pepe is known among savvy chefs for its simplicity. It is a dish that can be prepared with four ingredients and has somehow become a social media phenomenon and an indelible part of the American culinary lexicon.

Here’s everything you need to know about its origins.

What Historians Believe


The Cacio e pepe is a term that translates to “cheese and pepper” – half of the ingredients used to prepare the dish. Dried pasta and hot water make up the other half.

The dish is from Rome and according to some historians, the pasta came from China over 4,000 years ago in the form of rice noodles. It was carried to the Middle East and Europe where they used the local wheat to make flour.

The cacio, or the cheese, is specifically Pecorino Romano and comes from sheep’s milk, as “pecora” means “sheep” in Italian. This cheese’s existence can be traced back to 3,000 BC when it was found in the Mediterranean, North Africa, and Asia Minor.

On the other hand, The pepe, or black pepper, dates back beyond 1212 BC when it was found adorned on Pharoah Ramses II.

Origins of the Recipe


Cacio e pepe is an old Italian dish even though food historians have credited Roman shepherds as the creators of the dish.

It was created because the shepherds had to find practical ways to eat since their sheeps were always grazing so far from home.

The 4 ingredients of cacio e pepe were very easy to carry and did not spoil. The cheese was made fresh from the sheep’s milk, pepper could be easily carried, and pasta could be made fresh from flour and water.

Not only is the dish easy to make, but it also has lots of nutritional benefits. The pasta’s carbs added on the calories and energy the shepherds needed for their daily activities, and the spice of the pepper kept their bodies warm during cool nights.

From the pastures and countryside, the dish has traveled to local taverns and had ultimately spread across the country by the 18th century.

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