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pecorino, pepper & lemon sauce

From Pasta Every Day

”Cacio e pepe - one of Rome’s “big four”, along with gricia, carbonara, and amatriciana - is my favourite dish. There, I said it. It’s also a sauce that can be technically challenging. Because it consists solely of Pecorino Romano and black pepper, traditional cacio e Pepe is easier to make with starch-heavy pasta water - best achieved with longer-cooking dried pasta - which helps keep the sauce creamy instead of clumpy. So I’ve decided to take the building blocks of cacio e Pepe on a little field trip. Here, a shot of citrus provides brightness, and butter and cream, although entirely untraditional, emulsify the sauce with a fraction of the effort (and the starch). I tend to reserve this dish for a date night in, so this recipe serves two, with plenty of sauce for drizzling.” - Meryl Feinstein



  • 16 ounces fresh pasta or 12 ounces dried pasta
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) Pecorino Romano
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons (6 grams) whole black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream


  1. Finely grate the Pecorino on the smallest holes of a box grater and add it to a bowl. Grate the zest of half of the lemon and juice it all.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high and toast the peppercorns until fragrant, shaking the pan often, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and crush until semi-fine
  3. In the same nonstick skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add three-quarters of the pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the butter starts to foam. Turn off the heat and set aside.

To serve:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season it generously with salt. Cook your pasta of choice until just shy of your liking (if using dried pasta, 1 to 2 minutes before al dente).

When the pasta is almost ready, add 1/4 cup (60 ml)pasta cooking water to the bowl with the Pecorino and stir into a thick paste.

Place the skillet with the butter and pepper over high heat. Transfer the pasta and 1/2 cup (120ml) pasta cooking water to the pan and toss until the water thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. (If you need to drain the pasta first, reserve 1 cup (240 ml) pasta cooking water). Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the cream. Let it bubble for a few moments until thickened once more.

Turn of the heat and add the Pecorino paste. Stir vigorously until the cheese melts and the sauce becomes creamy. Loosen with more pasta water if needed - it’s better for the sauce to be a little loose since it will tighten as it cools. Stir in the lemon zest and juice. Divide the pasta amount bowls and serve immediately with a sprinkle of the remaining pepper.

Try the recipe yourself!

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