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closeup of lemon pepper pasta in white bowl with gold fork

Lemon Cacio E Pepe

  • Author: Quin Liburd
  • Prep Time: 15m
  • Cook Time: 10m
  • Total Time: 25m
  • Yield: 2 1x
  • Category: Main Dishes
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian-Inspired


This quick and simple Lemon Cacio E Pepe recipe is loaded with flavor and perfect for easy weeknight dinners. A pop of bright and zippy lemon flavor adds a truly delightful, citrusy kick to this signature Roman “cheese and pepper” pasta dish!


  • 8 ounces dried bucatini (or spaghetti)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, grated on a microplane or the smallest holes on a box grater, plus more for garnish
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • 12 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


  1. Cook the pasta: Fill a large pot about halfway full of water and bring it to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Then *generously* season the water with salt. Add the pasta into the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente- about 7-9 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the starchy pasta water and then drain pasta into a colander. Reduce the stovetop heat to the lowest setting.
  2. Build the pasta & toss: Return the empty pot back to the stove. Add the butter into the pot, first, and top with cooked pasta. Then add the black pepper, half of the pecorino romano cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Toss together until the butter just melts and the mixture is briefly combined. Then add in the remaining cheese and a bit more of the starchy pasta water, only as needed, while continuing to toss/stir until the cheese melts and a smooth, glossy, and creamy sauce is left behind that coats the pasta nicely.
  3. Serve: Remove pasta from heat. Serve lemon cacio e pepe pasta immediately in shallow pasta bowls and garnish with an extra topping of more grated pecorino romano cheese, if desired. Enjoy!


  1. A note on cheese: As written, the cheese of choice here is *pecorino romano* friends. A second best alternative would be parmesan cheese. In addition to that, you need a fresh block of said cheese that you’ll grate using a microplane or on the smallest holes of a box grater. Freshly grated cheese creates razor thin, wispy shreds of cheese that should melt beautifully in this pasta. Using pre-shredded cheese may result in your pasta clumping, and I don’t want that for you.
  2. For best recipe success, please read the blog post & notes in its entirety with video tutorial before beginning.

Keywords: lemon, cacio e pepe, pasta, lemon pasta, cheese and pepper pasta, cheese and pepper, easy dinner, simple pasta