The simplest Zucchini Cacio e Pepe with Brown Butter. Classic Cacio e Pepe made easy with the addition of sautéed garlic zucchini and rich brown butter. The secret to Cacio e Pepe is freshly cracked black pepper, high-quality cheese, and some good arm work to toss your pasta. Nothing fancy, but each bowl of pasta is wonderfully delicious.
Carrying on with our simple summer cooking, we’ve got a perfect bowl of Cacio e Pepe. Normally, I wouldn’t get overly excited about a recipe such as Cacio e Pepe. It’s so, so delicious, but a very simple recipe. I usually share dishes with a few more ingredients. But while I was in LA I had a plate of Cacio e Pepe that reminded me just how good the simple Italian pasta can be.
It was a much cheesier, peppery Cacio e Pepe, and honestly, it was by far the best I’ve had. That plate got me excited to try my own variation at home. It’s perfect for busy summer days.
First, this is just my take on Cacio e Pepe. It is by no means the classic recipe, just a version I’ve been making.
I wanted to add a summery element. So I added zucchini, garlic, and fresh basil. Just 3 simple additions, but they add a pop of summer freshness that we love.
And then the browned butter. It’s not an ingredient add, it’s just cooked a little differently than what’s traditionally done. And it makes all the difference.
Here are the details
Cacio e Pepe literally means cheese and pepper. It’s like mac and cheese, but simpler. And in my book, a little bit of an upgrade, or maybe I should say, more of an adult version. When looking at the recipe you might think it seems basic, that’s because it is basic. But with quality ingredients – pasta, butter, fresh black pepper, and a really good cheese, it’s perfect.
Start with the pasta. I used rigatoni, but any cut works well. Bucatini is more traditional, though it’s often made with other cuts of pasta today.
Boil-off the pasta and save plenty of the pasta cooking water. The water is used to make the sauce.
While the pasta boils, cook the zucchini with garlic until it gets a little golden. Pull it out of the pan and start making the sauce. I like to add basil to the zucchini too, it’s delicious!
Back in that same skillet, you need to toast the black pepper. Then add half of the butter, the cooked pasta, both the parmesan and pecorino, and the pasta cooking water. Then toss to melt. This is a cheesier Cacio e Pepe, so really give it a good tossing to melt the cheese and form a nice sauce.
Once the cheese has melted, mix in the zucchini, plus fresh basil.
Finally, brown the last bit of butter in a small skillet. This might seem like an unnecessary extra step but it takes just a few minutes and adds a lot. Add a drizzle of brown butter over the pasta with a grating of fresh cheese. It’s delightful and makes each bowl of summery pasta taste rich and indulgent.
Serve this with a simple arugula, spinach, or summer fruit salad. The perfect meal, and we love how quickly this comes together too!
Looking for other simple pasta dinners? Here are a few of my go-to’s.
Lastly, if you make this Zucchini Cacio e Pepe with Brown Butter, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!
Zucchini Cacio e Pepe with Brown Butter
Calories Per Serving: 414 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. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Just before draining, reserve 1 1/4 cups of the pasta cooking water. Drain.2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini, garlic, and season with salt. Cook until the zucchini is golden, 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet to a plate. 3. Working in the same skillet, add the pepper and cook 30 seconds, until toasted. Add 4 tablespoons butter, then the pasta, 1 cup pasta cooking water, the parmesan, and pecorino. Toss vigorously to melt the cheese. Add the remaining 1/4 cup water, the zucchini, and season with salt. Toss well. 4. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat, cook until the butter browns, 3-4 minutes. 5. Plate the pasta and spoon the butter over each serving. Top with fresh basil. Eat!