Cacio e pepe mac and cheese recipe with a sweet summer granita dessert (2024)

Private chef and cooking host Natasha Feldman is adding author to her repertoire.

Feldman joined "Good Morning America" to talk about her new cookbook, "The Dinner Party Project," and shared two new recipes for cooks at home.

The "Nosh with Tash" creator shared one savory and one sweet treat that will be perfect for summer.

Check out the full recipes below.

Cacio e Pepe Mac and Cheese

Cacio e pepe mac and cheese recipe with a sweet summer granita dessert (1)

Serves: 6

Total time: 45 minutes

"The first time I had cacio e pepe, an Italian pasta dish aptly called 'cheese and pepper' because it’s made with only pasta, pecorino, and black pepper, I was skeptical," she said. "How can so few ingredients be so impressive? Then I believe I blacked out and didn’t return until I had eaten the entire plate of pasta and also the plate. It’s magical to think about how often the best recipes, and the greatest flavors, come from simple, good ingredients. Because mac and cheese is an easy way to make a large quantity of pasta for a crowd, I wanted to bring these two friends together and I’m pretty pleased with the result. This hybrid features a basic white sauce (béchamel) loaded with fresh cracked pepper, lots of pecorino, and toasty bread crumbs to finish!"


Bread Crumbs

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup panko bread crumbs

Mac and Cheese

4 teaspoons salt, divided

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper, plus extra to finish

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

4 teaspoons salt, divided

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 1/2 cups whole milk

1 pound medium-shell pasta

2 cups grated pecorino romano cheese (1/2 pound), plus extra to finish


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

To make the breadcrumbs: In a large pot over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Once melted, add in ¼ teaspoon salt and 1 cup panko bread crumbs. Cook, stirring occasionally, until about half the bread crumbs are toasted a nice golden brown color, about 4 minutes. Set the bread crumbs aside.

To make the mac and cheese: Fill that same pot halfway full with water, add 3 teaspoons salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. While the pasta water is boiling, make the sauce. In a second pot over medium-low heat, add 1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper and stir just until aromatic, about 1 minute. (Yes, the pepper will become super-aromatic really fast. Yes, this is basically DIY pepper spray.) Add in 4 tablespoons butter and heat until melted. Whisk in 1/4 cup flour and 1 teaspoon salt. Slowly, while constantly whisking, add in 3½ cups milk to create a smooth, thin sauce. The sauce will get thicker before it gets thinner; just keep whisking! Crank up the heat to medium and bring the sauce to a boil, stirring occasionally.

This is probably the best time to toss your pasta into the boiling, salty water. Cook the pasta per the instructions on the package. Once the sauce is boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, whisking occasionally, until it thickens, about 6 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to easily coat the back of a spoon. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in 2 cups pecorino.

Once the pasta is cooked, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to the pot containing the sauce. Do not throw away the pasta water. Return the pasta⁄sauce pot to the cooktop and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until all the pasta is well-coated in sauce. Season to taste with additional pasta water. (It’s salty, remember? And starchy, which will help create a sauce that will coat the pasta well. Win-win.)

Pour the mac and cheese into an ungreased 9 x 13-inch baking dish and top with the bread crumbs and a generous sprinkling of black pepper. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the bread crumbs are a deep golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Finish with some extra pecorino for good measure. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving—burnt mouths are a dinner-party bummer.

Tips and Timing

A cheesy pasta dish is always best fresh. In a pinch, you can make the sauce in advance and add pasta water to thin it out just before tossing the pasta in it. The bread crumbs can be made up to a day in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temp.

The less water you use for boiling the pasta, the starchier and more awesome your pasta water will be.

Can you use parmesan if you can’t find pecorino? Yeah, your dish will be less salty and tangy and a little nuttier . . . but still super-tasty.

This has a lot of pepper in it, obviously, so if you have a coffee grinder, that’s the most efficient way to get the quantity needed.

Orange Dream Granita

Cacio e pepe mac and cheese recipe with a sweet summer granita dessert (2)

Serves: 6
Total time: 5 hours ( includes 4¼ hours of mostly hands-off freezing time)

"Granita -- an Italian shaved ice -- is a miraculous thing," she said. "It somehow strikes this perfect balance between rich and creamy and refreshing and icy. When I was testing this recipe at first, I made it with just oranges (using Orange Julius as my inspiration). But I found the recipe always remained a smidge too icy and not as exciting as I wanted. I then thought really hard about this nostalgic Orange Julius, Creamsicle flavor profile and I thought, 'AHA! Peaches!' and that was when the magic happened. The peaches add subtle sweetness and, more importantly, aid in creating a creamy texture -- perfection."

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh orange juice (from 3 to 4 oranges)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups chopped ripe juicy peaches (about 3 peaches)
1 large orange, peeled and seeds removed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Whipped Topping
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Fruit, like orange or peach slices, optional


To make the granita: Clear room in the freezer for a 9 x 9-inch baking dish. Leave it in there to get cold before using. In a small pot, combine ¾ cup sugar, ¾ cup orange juice, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and ¼ teaspoon salt over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Set aside. In a blender or food processor, whiz up the peaches and orange with 1 tablespoon lemon juice until smooth, about a minute. Add the sugar mixture from the pot into the blender and blend again.

Pour the granita mixture into the frozen baking dish. Once every hour over the course of about 4 hours (or until the granita is firmly frozen), stir/scrape the mixture with a fork, reaching all the way to the bottom of the dish, to create small shavings.
Optional (but heavenly): Before serving, scoop the granita into a blender or food processor and process it until really smooth and almost tacky, like sorbet. Divide the granita among 6 cups and put the cups in the freezer for 5 to 30 minutes before serving.

To make the whipped topping: Whip the cup of cream to medium peaks using a hand mixer—no sugar needed. Divide the cream evenly over the granita. Top with fruit for flair as desired, and serve.

Tips and Timing
Make the granita up to a week in advance and store in an airtight container in the freezer. Make sure it is fully fluffed before tucking it into bed for the week. Whip the cream up to 4 hours before serving and store in the fridge in a bowl covered with plastic wrap.
If it’s not peach season, use frozen peaches!

Recipe reprinted with permission from "The Dinner Party Project" by Natasha Feldman. Copyright © 2023 by Natasha Feldman. Reprinted by permission of Harvest, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Cacio e pepe mac and cheese recipe with a sweet summer granita dessert (2024)


What is cacio e pepe made of? ›

Traditionally, cacio e pepe (pronounced: kaa-chee-ow ee peh-pay) is made with just three ingredients: aged pecorino Romano cheese, freshly ground black pepper, and pasta, usually spaghetti; plus the starchy water from cooking the noodles. You don't have to go to Rome to enjoy cacio e pepe.

Why is cacio e pepe so hard to make? ›

That said, as simple as the cacio e pepe ingredient list may be, this dish is famously finicky when it comes to technique. If the cheese is overheated or the starchy pasta water isn't emulsified properly, the sauce can turn into a sticky, clumpy mess, which I can vouch from experience is always such a tragedy.

What is cacio e pepe secret? ›

Cacio e pepe is traditionally made from black pepper, aged Pecorino Romano cheese, spaghetti or tonnarelli pasta, and, most importantly, pasta cooking water. Authentic cacio e pepe does not include butter or oil, but we're willing to break a few rules for flavor.

What's the difference between Alfredo sauce and cacio e pepe? ›

Cacio e Pepe is a traditional Italian dish made with bucatini noodles tossed in a sauce of pasta water, butter, cheese, and black pepper. Alfredo, on the other hand, is an Italian-American dish made with fettuccine noodles and tossed in a cheese sauce made with parmesan, heavy cream, and butter.

What does cacio e pepe mean in english? ›

Cacio e pepe means 'cheese and pepper' in several central Italian dialects. In keeping with its name, the dish contains grated pecorino romano and black pepper, together with tonnarelli or spaghetti. All the ingredients keep well for a long time, which made the dish practical for shepherds without fixed abode.

What is the best pasta for cacio e pepe? ›

Classic cacio e pepe uses tonnarelli, a long pasta noodle that's slightly thicker than spaghetti, but any long or short pasta works (think spaghetti, bucatini, rigatoni, or fettuccine).

How do you thicken cacio e pepe? ›

- Add a little more pasta water than you think you need (the pasta will continue to soak it up and the sauce will thicken on your plate).

Can I use Parmesan instead of pecorino for cacio e pepe? ›

Cheese– Aged Pecorino Romano is a MUST when making Cacio e Pepe. It is made from sheep's milk and has a strong and tangy flavor. I also use Parmesan cheese because I like the flavor of the two cheeses together. If you want to use ALL Pecorino Romano, you can, but personally I like the mix of both cheeses.

What is a good substitute for cacio e pepe cheese? ›

Pecorino Romano is a hard, Italian sheep's milk cheese. It has sharp, rich nutty flavor, making it the perfect cheese for this simple pasta dish. If you don't have it or can't find it Parmigiano-Reggiano is a totally acceptable alternative.

How do you keep cacio e pepe creamy? ›

When it comes to making cacio e pepe at home, the traditional 3 ingredient version is not the way to go, unless you want to risk a broken and stringy cheese sauce. Instead, this version uses a cornstarch gel to stabilize the sauce and achieve a perfectly creamy sauce every time.

Why does my cheese clump in cacio e pepe? ›

Another culprit of clumping cacio e pepe is the pasta water. Starch in the pasta water is what allows the sauce to mix with the cheese and pepper to become a hom*ogenous pasta sauce. So if you add too much water to the pasta, it thins out the starch in the water and won't allow the sauce to create an emulsion.

Should cacio e pepe be salty? ›

But when we're learning How to Make Authentic Roman Cacio e Pepe, we need to take care not to get crazy with the salting of things. Pecorino Romano basically makes up the whole sauce, and y'all – that cheese is SALTY.

Why is Cacio e Pepe so good? ›

Cacio e Pepe is a classic Italian pasta dish that originated in Rome. Its name translates to "cheese and pepper" in English, reflecting its simple yet delicious ingredients of Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper. It's a staple of Roman cuisine and has become popular worldwide for its flavorful simplicity.

Should cacio e pepe be spicy? ›

It has a very rich and strong flavor due to the Pecorino Romano sharp cheese as well as the heavy amount of pepper. Warning: some might find this dish spicy.

What does cacio e pepe taste like? ›

The translation of Cacio e Pepe literally means cheese and pepper. This pasta dish is incredibly simple, but packs a lot of rich flavor with pecorino Romano cheese and freshly ground pepper. It has a very rich and strong flavor due to the Pecorino Romano sharp cheese as well as the heavy amount of pepper.

Why is cacio e pepe so good? ›

Cacio e Pepe is a classic Italian pasta dish that originated in Rome. Its name translates to "cheese and pepper" in English, reflecting its simple yet delicious ingredients of Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper. It's a staple of Roman cuisine and has become popular worldwide for its flavorful simplicity.

What are the 4 basic pastas of Rome? ›

There are four classic Roman pasta dishes: cacio e pepe, carbonara, amatriciana, and alla gricia. Each one is a variation on the other — alla gricia is cacio e pepe plus guanciale, carbonara is gricia plus egg, and so on. These four dishes are famous in all of Italian cooking, not just in Rome.

Why is cacio e pepe not vegetarian? ›

Although this recipe traditionally has no meat or seafood in it, cacio e pepe is not vegetarian. This is because Pecorino Romano is made using animal rennet. The same is true for Parmigiano. To make this recipe vegetarian, you will need to use a different hard cheese.

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