Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese

Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese marries the uber simple but powerfully flavored classic Italian pasta with everybody's favorite comfort food ~ delish!

Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese marries the uber simple but powerfully flavored classic Italian pasta with everybody’s favorite comfort food ~ delish! This is my new easy cheesy dinner.

Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese marries the uber simple but powerfully flavored classic Italian pasta with everybody's favorite comfort food ~ delish!

I promise you won’t regret making this easy mac & cheese recipe! Cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) is one of the most elemental of all pasta dishes, and if you love the earthy spicy flavor of cracked black pepper like I do, you’re going to flip over this. This simple Roman meal is sexy, satisfying, and so good it’s been around for centuries. The original is made with Romano cheese, pepper, and pasta, that’s it! The starch from the cooking water mixes with the cheese and makes a silky sauce. But the real star is the black pepper, it’s such a common, every day spice that it’s easy to forget how amazing it is.

Just take a handful of good peppercorns in your palm and inhale ~ the aroma is intoxicating.

Whole black peppercorns for Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and cheese

For this classic cacio e pepe recipe I use a minimum of 1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black pepper. 

I’ll sprinkle more on as I go. PLEASE crack it yourself from the whole peppercorns, the flavor will be far superior. I sometimes use my spice grinder to do the job, it’s quicker than the pepper mill when you’re grinding in bulk.

Coarsely cracked black pepper for Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese recipe

I stir the pepper right into the milk as I heat it on the stove, so the pepper has a chance to infuse into my cream sauce. I keep the recipe simple, in keeping with the minimalist cacio e pepe theme. I use evaporated milk for a creamy texture without extra fat, and a convenient bagged blend of Italian cheese. The evaporated milk works great to ensure a thick sauce without having to make a flour and butter roux. I ladle the mac & cheese right into a oven safe pan or gratin dish to bake it off. It only takes 20 minutes. You can do it all in one, or in individual dishes.

Baking off Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese

I like to use the corkscrew shaped cavatappi pasta, because it’s nice and chewy, and really catches that cheese sauce. I think it’s the perfect shape for an adult mac and cheese like this.

Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese ready to bake.

Sometimes I’ll top it with more cheese and sometimes, like today, I’ll add a toasted breadcrumb and cheese topping, just for a little bit of crunch. But whatever you do, don’t forget a final shower of just cracked pepper before you dig in.

Baked Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese with a crisp breadcrumb topping.

I don’t like to be pushy, but just make this. ๐Ÿ™‚  And when you’ve finished with this one, I highly recommend moving on to my Brussels Sprout Carbonara  for another uber comfy and delicious pasta recipe. Or my Lemony Fettuccine Alfredo…both are classic Italian pasta recipes with a fun twist.

Baked Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese

Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese marries the uber simple but powerfully flavored classic Italian pasta with everybody's favorite comfort food ~ delish!
3.41 from 37 votes

Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese

Cacio e Pepe Macaroni and Cheese marries the uber simple but powerfully flavored classic Italian pasta with everybody's favorite comfort food ~ delish!
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Yield 4 servings
Author Sue Moran


  • 2/3 pound macaroni I used cavatappi
  • 16 ounces evaporated milk
  • 1 Tbsp coarsely cracked black pepper plus more to taste
  • 8 ounce bag of grated Italian Blend cheese I used Sargento
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese I used the good stuff, Parmesan-Reggiano
  • salt if necessary taste first

bread crumb topping

  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • fresh parsley chopped


  • Set oven to 350F
  • Make the breadcrumb topping first. Heat the butter in a small skillet and stir in the breadcrumbs. Cook for a minute or two, stirring constantly. Take off the heat, mix in the cheese, and set aside.
  • Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water until just shy of al dente, I cook it 2 minutes short of what the package says. Drain and rinse with cold water so it stops cooking. Set aside.
  • Put the evaporated milk in a large saucepan along with the cracked pepper. Bring the mixture up to a simmer, then take off the heat and add the Italian blend cheese, and the grated Parmesan. Stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. Put it back on the heat briefly if necessary to get everything melted. Taste and add salt if needed, you probably won't need any.
  • Add the macaroni to the cheese sauce and stir well. Turn the mixture into a single baking dish, or individual oven safe dishes.
  • Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top, cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes, or until hot and bubbling.
  • Serve immediately, sprinkled with chopped parsley and more fresh cracked pepper.
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

Make it your own ~

  • Romano is the traditional cheese for the original cacio e pepe recipe, but you can use any cheese you like. I like the ease of the bagged Italian blend cheese because it’s already grated and ready to dump right in. An 8 ounce bag is just the right amount, 2 cups.
  • For other inventive twists on the classic Italian cheese and pepper sauce, try this Cacio e Pepe Spaghetti Squash, and this Roasted Cauliflower Cacio e Pepe!


cacio e pepe macaroni and cheese


You Might Also Like


    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    June 8, 2020 at 7:18 am

    If I skip the breadcrumb part, do I still need to place the macaroni and cheese sauce in the oven?

    • Reply
      June 8, 2020 at 8:44 am

      Not necessarily, but it’s nice to get it bubbling hot.

  • Reply
    Dan from Platter Talk
    May 11, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    What an Incredible adult mac and cheese creation you’ve got going on here. I love it’s simplicity and the featured fresh black peppercorn; such an underused and underappreciated cooking staple! I’m imagining how great this will taste with a glass of red anything… Thanks for the delicious inspiration!

    • Reply
      May 11, 2018 at 5:01 pm

      Thanks Dan, nice to meet a fellow pepper-appreciator!!

  • Reply
    November 21, 2017 at 5:39 am

    When you say 2/3 is it cups or pounds? I am trying to double the recipe and having a total math brain fart.

    • Reply
      November 21, 2017 at 7:09 am

      I used 2/3 of a pound of pasta, Adriana, so if you want to double it, use about 1 1/3 pounds. Enjoy!

  • Reply
    March 10, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    Pass the pepper grinder! This looks so good, Sue. Another winner!

    • Reply
      January 1, 2018 at 6:42 pm

      What are your thoughts about adding meat to this?

      • Reply
        January 2, 2018 at 5:05 am

        I think you can certainly do that, Carly, we just made a mac and cheese with leftover ham and it was delicious.

  • Reply
    March 6, 2017 at 8:29 am

    I think this is on the table tonight, but with cauliflower. I love cheese and I love pepper, so really looking forward to this.

    • Reply
      March 6, 2017 at 8:31 am

      I bet that will be just incredible Cathy ~ I need to try that.

  • Reply
    March 6, 2017 at 8:05 am

    this is glorious. plain and simple but so decadent and so flavorful–bravo!

  • Reply
    Robyn Gleason
    March 5, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    I love my pepper on mac & cheese so this is perfection. Do you know as kids in Canada we used to put ketchup on it? hahaha. It actually tastes good. We dip our grilled cheese in ketchup too. Americans laugh at us about it until they try it!
    A beautiful recipe, Sue, and gorgeous photos. Everything you make is always so mouthwatering and speaks to my taste buds!
    Sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      December 18, 2017 at 11:39 am

      I must be Canadian! I am a vegan now. Would love to see a vegan. Version.

  • Reply
    2 sisters recipes
    March 3, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    Love this recipe for Mac and cheese! I never used evaporated milk before but I have to try it soon. Great recipe Sue and have a great weekend.

    • Reply
      March 4, 2017 at 10:39 am

      Evaporated milk is a new discovery for me, it’s all natural, been around for generations, and makes creamy sauces easier and healthier.

      • Reply
        March 4, 2017 at 10:40 am

        I sound like an ad for it lol!

  • Reply
    March 3, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    This sounds absolutely wonderful. Looking forward to trying it when I get back to cooking (we’ll be traveling for a while).

    • Reply
      March 3, 2017 at 5:32 pm

      Enjoy the travel Susan!

  • Reply
    March 3, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    Way to upgrade the simple classic! Awesome.

  • Reply
    kathi @ LaughingSpatula
    March 3, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Where is Great Island? Is that were I can get a bite? Getting on a boat…lol! This looks so amazing!

  • Reply
    Karen @ Seasonal Cravings
    March 3, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    This looks so good! I love using evaporated milk in mine and I don’t think there is anything else that makes it creamy like that. Comfort food at its best! Have a great weekend!

    • Reply
      March 3, 2017 at 2:07 pm

      Thanks Karen <3

  • Reply
    Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch)
    March 3, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    I sure wish I had a bowl of that right now. Looks incredible. Pinning.

  • Reply
    Megan Marlowe
    March 3, 2017 at 10:50 am

    I LOVE tons of cracked pepper on my mac and cheese so this sings to me! This looks ultra creamy and I love that you used cavatappi-my fav!

  • Reply
    Platter Talk
    March 3, 2017 at 10:21 am

    Oh ya, baby! This is what I’m thinking about when I’m thinking mac & cheese. Lovely.

  • Reply
    Laura | Tutti Dolci
    March 3, 2017 at 10:20 am

    Such a brilliant take on cacio e pepe! I am forever adding black pepper to everything (savory!), and fell in love with the pasta dish in Rome. This is the perfect way to bring it back into my kitchen ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      March 3, 2017 at 11:25 am

      I love the plain pasta dish, too Laura ~ the Italians really know how to keep it simple, don’t they?

  • Reply
    Luci's Morsels
    March 3, 2017 at 9:55 am

    This looks amazing! The pepper looks beautiful and I can almost taste it! Yum!

  • Reply
    Meg | Meg is Well
    March 3, 2017 at 9:48 am

    I want to take a head first dive into that cheese sauce! I’ve never used evaporated milk in a cheese sauce before either so thanks for the awesome tip! I would love to not have to use flour to make a roux.

    • Reply
      March 3, 2017 at 10:16 am

      Thanks Meg, and yes, it really helps to cut out that step ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Lisa | Garlic & Zest
    March 3, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Oh-Ma-Gawd! Seriously – that looks so amazing! I really wish you lived next door. I would be your official taste tester — free of charge!

    • Reply
      March 3, 2017 at 9:23 am

      haha ~ my daughter is happily filling that role right now, Lisa ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Reply
    March 3, 2017 at 9:14 am

    Such a great mac and cheese! Love pepper and so easy with the evap milk (which I love too ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      March 3, 2017 at 9:26 am

      You know I’ve recently spotted evaporated almond and coconut milks, too!

  • Reply
    March 3, 2017 at 9:07 am

    Oh wow!! This looks absolutely delicious!! My family would really enjoy it!!
    This looks incredible! Definitely

  • Reply
    March 3, 2017 at 8:18 am

    Love the simple flavors you used in this dish Sue. I was surprised to see evaporated milk, will have to try. Have a great week-end.

    • Reply
      March 3, 2017 at 8:27 am

      I’ve come to realize that evaporated milk is a healthy, real food ~ there’s nothing artificial in it, and it allows me to cut the fat while making really easy creamy sauces ~ I just love it!

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    March 3, 2017 at 4:54 am

    I love tons of black pepper so I know this is for me! It looks so creamy and rich. The cavatappi is a great choice along with the evaporated milk – great recipe!!! Have a lovely weekend Sue.

    • Reply
      March 3, 2017 at 7:49 am

      Thanks Tricia, I’m now using evaporated milk a lot, it’s incredibly versatile and great for sauces, etc.

  • Reply
    [email protected]'s Recipes
    March 3, 2017 at 4:24 am

    wow those black peppers are really amazing..I can say that freshly cracked black peppers make this pasta classic. Well done, Sue.

    • Reply
      March 3, 2017 at 7:48 am

      I’ve been a pepper fiend forever, Angie, I just love it, and it’s so nice to let it be the star in a recipe for once!

Sharing is Caring

Help spread the word. You're awesome for doing it!

Grab my latest e-book

for free!

Subscribe to get first dibs on all my new recipes, plus extra subscriber only benefits!


You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

You have Successfully Subscribed!