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Cacio e Pepe with Arugula and Lemon.

Cacio e Pepe with Arugula and Lemon | #pasta #easy #recipes

SO. Someone on Instagram left a comment asking me why I use lemons in all my recipes. My response? I really enjoy lemons (plus they are really good for you). Why else would I use them, you know?

Okay, but in all seriousness, this comment wasn’t said in a nice way, and I obviously do not use lemons in ALL of my recipes. Maybe a good amount of them, but let’s just be real, you guys know I like to switch things up! But hey, it’s spring, and I’m in a lemony kind of mood, so I’m going with it, and loving every bite. Plus, I feel as though I’m not alone in my love of lemony things. Pretty confident that like me, a lot you guys enjoy a touch of lemon flavor too.

And guys, if you do hate lemons, there is a simple fix, just leave the lemon out. Problem solved.

Moving on.

Cacio e Pepe with Arugula and Lemon | #pasta #easy #recipes

I am pretty excited to share this very easy pasta recipe with you guys today! I’ve hesitated making Cacio e Pepe for so long for the sole reason that it’s truly so simple and so easy that I didn’t feel I needed to tell you guys about it.

But then something happened. I made this recipe for my friends over at The Chriselle Factor and I immediately fell in love with it. Of course, me being me, I added an extra ingredient or two, to add in that extra touch of flavor and give the recipe my own personal flare. But all in all, it’s very similar to the classic pasta eaten all around Italy. And of course, it’s delicious, easy, and quick.

A little background. Cacio e Pepe literally means cheese and pepper. It’s like mac and cheese, but simpler and quite possibly better. When looking at the recipe you might think it seems a bit basic, that’s because it is basic. BUT with good pasta, a little butter, fresh black pepper, and really good cheese, it’s also basic(ally) perfect.

You see what I did there? Basic…ally?

Yeah, in my head it works…just go with it.

Cacio e Pepe with Arugula and Lemon | #pasta #easy #recipes

The key to this recipe is the pasta cooking water. You simply cannot make this without that pasta water, as it’s the water that creates that creamy and luscious sauce. This also means there is zero cream in this pasta recipe, which I dunno, kind of makes it health…ish, right? There are greens too. And lemon! So yes, yes, healthy…ish. Again, just go with it.

SO, here is how this works. You ready? It’s simple.

Boil a large pot of water, add the pasta and cook. Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water and drain. Heat the butter in a skillet with pepper, add in the pasta water and the pasta. Sprinkle all that cheese in, and toss, toss, toss. Remove from heat, add a couple handfuls of arugula and basil, and divide the pasta between plates. Finish with lemon, plus a dusting more of parmesan cheese.


So simple.

Incredible delicious.

So perfect.

Cacio e Pepe with Arugula and Lemon | #pasta #easy #recipes

It’s not often that I make such simple recipes like this pasta, but I do believe that everyone needs a recipe like this Cacio e Pepe in their back pocket. It’s made from pantry staple ingredients, takes maybe fifteen to twenty minutes to make, and is really delicious. Meaning it’s perfect for those nights when you have nothing in your fridge, or a night when all you feel like doing is eating pasta and binge watching Netflix, or even a night when a surprise guest shows up and you need to come up with a tasty meal to satisfy everyone…fast.

This is that magical pasta that will save the day.

And again, the addition of those leafy baby arugula greens and lemon zest totally make this a very “well-balanced” meal. Don’t you guys just love my way of rationalizing things? My mind works in surprisingly great ways…sometimes.

Enter that wink, wink emoji here.

Cacio e Pepe with Arugula and Lemon | #pasta #easy #recipes

Watch the How To Video Here:

Cacio e Pepe with Arugula and Lemon

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories Per Serving: 453 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

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  • 1 pound bucatini pasta
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated pecorino cheese
  • couple handfuls baby arugula
  • fresh basil and lemon zest, for serving


  • 1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Just before draining, reserve 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain.
    2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pepper and cook 30 second to 1 minute, until toasted.
    3. Add the reserved pasta water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the pasta and remaining butter. Reduce the heat to low and add the parmesan and pecorino, tossing until melted. Remove from the heat, add the arugula, toss until the greens are wilted and the sauce coats the pasta, adding in more pasta water if needed to thin the sauce. Transfer to a bowl and serve topped with fresh basil and lemon zest. Enjoy!

Cacio e Pepe with Arugula and Lemon | #pasta #easy #recipes

Thursday night + pasta + chill time = my kind of night. I’m excited, what are you guys doing?!

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  1. 5 stars
    OMG! So fast, so easy, so DELICIOUS! Do yourself a favor and make this! I had a spinach/arugula mix that i used and squeezed the juice of half a lemon along with the zest and greens.

    1. Hey Yvette,
      Awesome! I am delighted that this recipe was enjoyed and truly appreciate you giving it a try! xTieghan

  2. Made this tonight, instead of arugula I used French style green beans, also threw in shredded rotisserie chicken. So good. Next time I plan to increase the pepper to 2 tsp.

    1. Hey Suzanne,
      Thanks so much for making this recipe, I am delighted that it was enjoyed! Have a great weekend! xTieghan

    2. 5 stars
      Picked up black pepper linguine at the farmers market this morning and this was the perfect dish to make with it!! So simple and the arugula and lemon zest added a lighter/summery touch to it. Yummy.

      1. Hey Tyler,
        Happy Sunday!! Thanks a lot for giving this recipe a go, I am thrilled that it was enjoyed! xxTieghan

  3. It came out really yummy! I follow the recipe exactly except for cutting some ingredients in half as I was only making it for myself and one other. I also used baby spinach instead of arugula since that’s what I had on hand. The sauce wasn’t as thick as I liked it as I also made a little cheese sauce gravy on a separate skillet by heating a teaspoon of oil and a little bit of flour together and then adding water and then shredded cheese to put over the pasta to make it thick and this recipe was very yummy!! Thanks for teaching me this as I’m 23 years old and trying to learn how to cook some things for myself. Hmm, I also didn’t use lemons as I didn’t have any on hand (I had a lime but.. anyways, let’s move on) and yeah, I definitely agree and think the lemon brings tons of extra flavor to the table. 🙂 Much love and appreciation from Texas!! <3

    1. Hey Ryna,
      I am thrilled this recipe was enjoyed, thanks a lot for making it! Happy Sunday! xTieghan

    1. Hey Shayna,
      I would serve with a Cabernet Sauvignon. I hope you love this recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! xTieghan

  4. 5 stars
    great recipe.
    One suggestion though, reduce the volume of the water you cook the pasta in.
    Remember, the starch in the water is what makes the cream sauce. the more dilute the pasta water is, the less starch available to make the cream sauce.
    give it a try!

    1. Hi Kim,
      Yes parmesan would be great. I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! xTieghan

  5. I was able to find and use micro arugula in this recipe. It was great to have the peppery bite of the arugula without the big chew of the mature leaf. It also presented beautifully.

    1. Hi! That could be the case depending on your metabolism and how fast you digest. Anyway, I hope you love this or other recipes of mine! xTieghan

    1. Made this and loved it (so did my kids!). Any ideas for how to keep the cheese from clumping up after to you add it?

      1. Hey Deana,
        Thanks so much for making this recipe, I am so delighted that it was enjoyed! Have a great week:) Try grating your own cheese! xTieghan

  6. This did not turn out well at all. The cheese clumps up and separates from the pasta. Had to retry twice. Kinda bummed, first half baked harvest recipe i haven’t loved !!

  7. 5 stars
    Super easy recipe and super delicious! I made fresh pasta and added some asparagus and cherry tomatoes. I was worried that the pepper would be too much for an 18 month old, but he chowed down. Tasty enough to serve for dinner guests. Thanks!

  8. Hi Teighan, I do wanna try this recipe, but pecorino cheese is not available in India. What else can I use here?

    1. Hi Sheenam! Hmm, what cheese is available? You need a dry cheese, that melts when heated. Something that you can great and melts into a sauce. Can you think of something that might work? Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope you love this recipe! Thank you! xTieghan

  9. 5 stars
    Just saying that this is amazing. So simple and yet delicious in a sophisticated way. My favorite combination ?. FYI I made it with zucchini noodles so basically just followed the steps stirring in the zucchini as if they were the precooked noodles. Doesn’t seem to miss the pasta water… thanks – will be keeping this in rotation!

  10. 5 stars
    This dish is so tasty & comforting! Just some notes/changes that I made: served with roasted butternut squash because I didn’t have arugula; used parmesan and gruyere cheese. I know this is a weird combo . . . . but it tasted sooo good!! I did not add basil or arugula but did include some freshly squeezed lemon juice (thanks to my girlfriend’s tree). Sooo comforting! so good. So good that I just made it again for lunch. This time I added the arugula (went to store this morning). Still amazing!! Thank you!!

  11. What’s so beautiful about Italian cooking is it’s simplicity. No reason to not think this dish is worthy of being on your site. Cacio en Pepe is utterly delicious. Can’t wait to try your recipe.

  12. 4 stars
    I made this tonight and the cheese just kind of globbed up. I added more pasta water, but it never really fixed it. Do you know what I might’ve done wrong? The flavors were delicious; I just didn’t really get a sauce :/

    1. Hey Betsy! At what point did you add the cheese and what kind of cheese are you using? It is important to use a higher quality cheese that will melt into the sauce. Also, are your bringing the sauce to simmer before adding the pasta? This is an important step that helps bind the sauce with the butter.

  13. I love lemons and personally think they should be on everything along with avocados;)
    Thanks for this simple and elegant recipe!

  14. 5 stars
    I made this the other night and it was fantastic! I loved the addition of the peppery arugula. My finicky husband, my forever-hungry 15-year-old, and my two-year-old loved it. In fact, my toddler had 2 (toddler-sized) helpings.

  15. 5 stars
    Hey Tieghan,
    This recipe is absolutely amazing! Thank you!! My boyfriend and I made it tonight- we subbed spinach for the arugula (the store was out) and we added tomatoes. We didn’t have fresh basil so we mixed basil into the pasta dough! I studied in Rome, Italy during college, and cacio e pepe was a popular dish there.

    I just recently came across your website and I am hooked. Looking forward to trying more of your recipes!


  16. This is combining all of my favorite things! I can’t wait to try this one. And I am a fellow lemon lover so bring on the lemons! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  17. Hi,
    Actually, “Cacio” means “Caciofiore” – it’s an old variety of Pecorino Romano – this is why in the traditional recipe you only have Pecorino and not Parmesan. I also put Parmesan which in a way makes this dish less “strong” – kids prefer that way…. I will for sure add your lemon touch next time 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  18. Cacio e Pepe is favorite quick recipe at our house when I need to get to the grocery store and have no time, am cooking for myself, or cooking dinner really late. I often add a fried or poached egg on top for protein. Love the addition of arugula and lemon. Making it tonight!

  19. 5 stars
    I made this tonight and made no changes. Lemon should go with all non marinara pasta dishes in my opinion ? my husband loved this and went back for a full plate of seconds! Definitely a keeper.

    1. HI! I think spinach would be delicious and the perfect sub. Please let me know if you have other questions. Hope you love this recipe! Thanks! 🙂

  20. But I bought a bag of lemons last night at ALDI! My pantry is way more basic than yours so I’m buying a thing or two when I buy groceries, so I’m ready for those ingredients. Plus, I’m making baklava, which uses lemon juice. I already bought tons of butter when it was on sale

  21. Cacio e pepe is the best, and I love that touch of lemon. Please keep all the lemony recipes coming! 🙂

  22. I also add a little lemon zest into creamy pasta dishes because I think it really brightens it up and cuts through the creaminess! I will definitely be trying this, love the addition of argues, great idea!

  23. 5 stars
    I live on an island and lemons are in season once a year, so my appreciation for lemons has skyrocketed. That season is now! Everything I make at the moment has lemon in it – and I mean everything! 🙂

  24. Hi Tieghan;

    I am from Jackson New Jersey I follow you every day your terrific and enjoy you every day also the reasoning for me
    sending you this message I just saw your brother Red’s Mountain Dew commercial he sure is getting around good for him
    and especially for his Gold Medal at the Olympics. Good Luck to you always!

  25. Hey Tieghan,
    I love this pasta and the addition of lemon! Haha my mom loves lemon too, and they always remind me of her. Maybe you could do a lemon tart with spring berries? I do like the addition of peppery arugula! What shows do you usually watch? Do you watch any documentaries? I hope you’re having a nice night and I’m excited to try this recipe!

  26. 5 stars
    LOL, Tieghan,
    The Italian word for “pasta” is “pasta”.

    Love you & your recipes so much!
    Ignore the lemon-haters!

  27. More lemon! Always more lemon. Especially in a recipe like this, It just makes everything else shine. YUM!

  28. 5 stars
    At 5:30 I was laying down with a heating pad on my back. Tired and NOT in the mood to cook dinner. I looked at the daily blog post and this recipe appeared. I swear it was a gift!
    Had all the ingredients (extra protein spaghetti instead of bucatini) but it was wonderful.
    My 18 year old daughter wasn’t loving the arugula but I only added some to the pot and loaded mine up
    My husband liked it too

    The lemon zest made it perfect!!!

    1. That is so amazing Lynn! I am so glad you liked this recipe and your family did as well! I hope your back is doing okay too! Thank you!

  29. 5 stars

  30. 5 stars
    I LOVE lemons in cooking! They add such a nice freshness, and especially with it being lemon season, I would expect to see a lot of lemons! I got a comment on a recipe sometime that said “I would never make that.” I was just like ok…..

    Anyways, I love the addition of arugula in this. What a delicious sounding recipe (even though it uses lemons).

  31. I think cacio e pepe translates to “cheese and pepper,” but otherwise, beautiful recipe. Very similar to Chrissy Teigen’s lemon arugula cacio e pepe recipe from her first cookbook! A little different and can’t wait to try it your way.

  32. 5 stars
    Great recipe! I love your recipes, and look foardward to trying this one. Citrus is great, too. Always adds a nice touch.

  33. 5 stars
    I use lemons in a lot of my recipes. It’s a pretty common ingredient with numerous culinary applications. What a bizarrre and embarrassing thing to moan about.

  34. Yum! I LOVE lemon stuff! Your lemon orzo & chicken recipe is one of my all time favorites. I just made the pesto, asparagus & ricotta pasta this week as well – it is awesome!! Nice and fresh. One can never ever ever have too many pasta recipes!! :o)

  35. You go ahead and add lemons to all your recipes if that’s what you like – I haven’t made one of your recipes yet that I haven’t loved! <3

  36. Pishhh. Lemon is EVERYTHING. I actually buy TWO large bags of Meyer lemons a week because I burn through them that fast! I put lemon in everything: my water, my tea, I spritz it on basically all my food (salads, chicken, shrimp). And IMO simple pasta is the best pasta. <3

  37. I love all your recipes. After experimenting with them, I am amazed at the power of a lemon or lime, what the addition of a pablano pepper does and the power of paprika and chili powder, not to mention the wonders of the pasta water. Thanks for everything you teach us everyday!!!

  38. Hey guess what – your food is DELICIOUS and you don’t need to defend yourself or your recipes. Shake it off girl. AND I LOVE LEMONS. That lemon orzo kale skillet meal is on repeat here. It’s ridiculous. Go team lemon!

  39. Sometimes basic is awesome! I can’t wait to make this soon! I got your recipe for the cauliflower shawarma in the morning yesterday and had it for dinner last night– SO GOOD! I make your recipes almost every day- actually I really can’t think of a day I don’t- and I think you use the perfect amount of lemon ? Keep up the great work!!

  40. 5 stars
    Lemons / limes brighten up flavors! They awaken them! I too add this juice to just about most of my recipes, even to simple white rice! Thanks for your fabulous recipes! 🙂

  41. Actually, “cacio y pepe” is Italian for “cheese and pepper.” Used in a sentence as “Cacio y peep pasta.”

    1. Any long cut pasta like spaghetti works great, but honestly on cut you love will be great too. Please let me know if you have other questions. Hope you love this recipe! Thanks! 🙂

  42. I love simple recipes and I’m happy you shared this one! I’m definitely making it on a busy weeknight. 🙂

  43. Great twist on a classic but Cacio e pepe means cheese and pepper. This pasta dish is really all about fresh cracked pepper and fresh grated cheese. The pasta water is a must as in many pasta recipes but makes this a quick meal.
    Many chefs add lemon to their dishes because it adds a freshness to them. Lemon is a must and you do not overuse it. It’s like adding salt to a recipe(actually lemon can be a healthy salt alternative) The arugula just repeats the peppery flavor and would be wonderful. Nice touch.

  44. Most well known chefs, ina garden, Giada, etc typically incorporate or finish a savory dish with a squeeze of lemon or zest or both. I made the one pan chicken and orzo dish of yours last night and didn’t have a lemon or kale…. made it anyway and used real lemon juice (don’t judge me). I served it with a side salad since I didn’t have the greens…the dish was almost as good, just didn’t have the extra visual appeal of the sliced lemons and greens. Sometimes you got to improvise and honestly to pick on you because of lemons…. small brained. Like a bad tv show… change the channel, leaves it out, move on! You’re fine! Keep doing what you’re doing! Love your freshness!

  45. As everyone who knows the least bit about cooking will tell you, acidity makes a dish! What is acidic? LEMONS are! Duh! So of course you incorporate them in your recipes?!?! The level of stupidity of some people still suprises me…
    Anyway, to put it more nicely: Love lemons, love your recipes (lemon or otherwise), thank you for providing a nassive service for free!!!!

  46. And if like me you live in the Mediterranean, Lemons are abundant and cheap at the moment, so why not use them.. in everything..

  47. I have a pound of Colavita bucatini, a delightful black pepper to crack and arugula in the refrigerator. An almost simple and flavor filled recipe!

  48. 5 stars
    Thank you-thank you for a back pocket recipe. Leaving for NY for 5 weeks to help with twins while DIL goes back to work. Goal is to adore my grandbabies and have supper on the table. This recipe will be a home run.

  49. 5 stars
    Hi there,
    It’s so great to read your recipes you are so creative. Your photos just make me want to create, cook and eat all the recipes you share…. Keep up the good work and don’t worry about those who always have something to moan about.
    Love, Orsi

  50. Hi Tieghan,
    love the recipe!
    Pretty sure though that “pepe” translates to “black pepper”. Sounds very delicious, especially with the hint of lemon 🙂