Pasta salad

Cacio e Pepe is an Italian pasta dish that is becoming increasingly popular in America.  Hailing from Rome, it’s really a very simple recipe.  Pasta, romano cheese and pepper - that’s it.  In fact “Cacio e Pepe” gracefully translates to “cheese and pepper”.  Creamy, salty and peppery, it has just the right balance of flavors that want to make you eat the whole bowl.  It’s usually made with spaghetti or even something thicker like Bucatini.  The secret to making it creamy?  Pasta water.  Yes!  Reserve a third of a cup of your salted pasta water when you’re draining the cooked pasta.  It serves as a starchy base to add the cheese.

This recipe is a “served warm or cold” dish inspired by this popular recipe.  We add a few ingredients to make something new that’s equally delicious, a little more involved, but not convoluted.  Not like the original recipe, I do use cream to make a solid pasta salad dressing base.  It’s a great dish to bring over to share with a friend, have at a cookout or Sunday supper.  It would fit into any meal spring, summer or fall.  Let me know if you try this dish!

Notes:  As a Culinary Nutrition Instructor, I aim to make ingredient swaps that are healthy and accessible.  When I make this recipe I like to use chickpea pasta to make it gluten-free with more protein.  If you do, too, be sure to keep an eye on the pasta and cook it to “al Dente” as chickpea pasta can get mushy and fall apart easily.  Of course, use any pasta you like!

Cacio e Pepe Pasta Salad


10 oz pasta like Rotini

Salt for the pasta water

⅓ cup heavy cream

1 cup grated Romano cheese (divided) plus more for sprinkling

3 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper

¾ cup Roma tomatoes, chopped small

¾ cup zucchini, chopped small

2 tsp butter

¾ cup chopped marinated artichoke hearts

½ cup cooked pancetta or cooked chopped bacon (optional)


Cook the pasta to al Dente according to package directions.  Don’t forget to salt the pasta water.  Drain the pasta, but reserve ⅓ cup of pasta water.  Transfer pasta to a large bowl and set aside.  In a saucepan over medium heat add the pasta water and heavy cream and bring to a simmer.  Add ½ cup Romano cheese and pepper and whisk.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes to let the sauce thicken and remove from heat.

In a small skillet over medium heat, add the butter and chopped zucchini and saute until it softens.  Remove from heat and set aside.

To the pasta, add the tomatoes, zucchini, ½ cup Romano cheese, artichoke hearts and pancetta/bacon (if using).  Add the cheese and pepper sauce and mix well carefully.  Transfer to your favorite serving dish and sprinkle the top with a little more cheese.  Serve and eat while still warm or chill to serve cold later.  Enjoy!


About me:

Shannon Feol lives with her husband, Robert, and 3 kids in Olive Branch. She is a certified Culinary Nutrition Expert and Instructor and owns the blog Shannon’s recipes are focused around cooking delicious and beautiful food that’s made with healthy ingredients. She’s also a devoted AUtism mom who is passionate about helping others with a holistic approach. Robert and Shannon own and operate Uncle Feol’s BBQ - an award- winning competition team in the KCBS circuit.

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