Cacio e pepe (+ verduras)

[vegetarian] because starch + simple spice and fat just isn't nutritious or yummy enough. Sorry, Italians.

This is a dish from Rome, and it literally means “cheese and peppers”. The core ingredients, unsurprisingly, are (grated parmesan or pecorino romano) cheese, (black) pepper, and a pasta, typically spaghetti or tonnarelli.

I discovered this dish as a “free” gift after dining at Rose’s Luxury in Washington, DC. As a Michelin-star restaurant that famously has hosted Michelle and Barack Obama in the past and infamously known not to take reservations, I had wanted to try this place for awhile without having to wait the long lines. One blessing from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic is that Rose’s decided to implement reservations. My husband and I took advantage of that — of course, well after we were fully inoculated. It was delicious, but of course, being a famous Michelin-starred restaurant, the bill was about $300 for the two of us. So, when I say we got this package of pasta, parmesan cheese, black pepper, and recipe card for “free” after paying the bill, I honestly considered it part of the deal… though, to be fair, we have certainly dined at other restaurants and paid similar prices without the gift at the end. Shrug.

My husband and I aren’t big on just carbs and sauce, though. To dress it up, I added garlic and onion (of course), as well as some choice vegetables I had on-hand and thought paired well with the dish.

Rose’s offered rigatoni pasta, which took about 10 minutes to cook until al dente


Serves 2 for a small to medium meal

  • 4 tbs butter
  • Cooking oil with high smoke point
    • I use avocado oil
  • 4 oz uncooked pasta
    • Spaghetti or tonnarelli is traditional, but any work in my opinion
  • 4-6 tbs grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
  • Spices
    • 2-4 tbs freshly grated black pepper
    • Salt
    • Red pepper flakes
    • (Optional) Italian herbs -- oregano, parsley, rosemary, basil
    • Other spices for broccoli
    • (Optional) A pinch of Xanthan gum
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 6-8 small tomatoes, e.g., cherry, cut into fourths
  • 1.5-2 cups of broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 handful frozen green peas
  • (Optional) green onion, chopped, for garnish


  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a baking pan, coat broccoli with 2-3 tbs of cooking oil. Sprinkle with your favorite spices, though I recommend no salt since that’ll draw out the broccoli’s moisture and make it a little mushy. There will also be salt in the cheese, maybe also in the butter if you use salted butter, and you can always add more salt in the end. I typically sprinkle whatever free or discounted no-salt spice mix I get from my local spice shop.
  3. Place pan in the oven and keep an eye on it as you’re cooking the other ingredients. You’ll likely need to roast them for at least 10 minutes but no more than 20.
  4. Bring a pot of water to boil, ideally with a wide mouth so you can double its use as the sauté pan later. Add salt.
  5. Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente (varies based on type).
  6. Strain pasta, reserving about 4 oz of water.
  7. In your sauté pan (or former pasta pot), heat it on medium low and add 2 tbs of butter.
  8. When the butter melts, add onion and garlic, frying for about 3 minutes until garlic starts to brown a little and onion softens.
  9. Optionally add a pinch of Xanthan gum to help the sauce hold together later with the pasta.
  10. Optionally add Italian herbs and chili flakes and sauté for another 30 seconds.
  11. Add about 2oz of the reserved pasta water.
  12. Turn the heat down to low. Add half the pepper and grated cheese.
  13. Add your al dente pasta and begin coating evenly.
  14. Your broccoli should be about done by now (or wait a few minutes until it’s a nice, roasted texture). Add that to the pan.
  15. Throw in the peas.
  16. Add another tablespoon of butter.
  17. Add the rest of the pepper and grated cheese.
  18. Optionally add more pasta water if you want it wetter.
  19. Turn off the heat.
  20. Add the tomatoes.
  21. Optionally add another tablespoon of butter or salt to taste.
  22. Optionally garnish with chopped green onion, more pepper, and/or more grated cheese.