Bucatini Cacio e Pepe with Broccoli is the classic cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) minimalist pasta, with some vegetables mixed in. The creamy sauce is made from simple ingredients and the result is creamy, peppery, rich, and absolutely out of this world. It’s a quick and easy dinner everyone will love!
about this bucatini cacio e pepe
I still remember the first time I made cacio e pepe. It was much like the first time I made carbonara… a total disaster.
Instead of reading the notes in detail about the recipe, I just threw all the cheese in and expected a beautiful glossy sauce to form.
Of course, this is just not how it works. Therefore, it was a clumpy mess and I was immediately discouraged from making it again for years.
However, after seeing photos posted by friends traveling in Italy, I wanted to master it. Turns out it’s not really a hard recipe, it’s one that requires you to actually follow the instructions (crazy right?).
This bucatini cacio e pepe is a twist on the classic because I add in broccoli that’s been tossed with lemon juice and some red pepper flakes. The broccoli gives you an extra zing of acid with the peppery cheesy sauce, as well as a different layer of heat.
Personally I just love getting my vegetables mixed into my pasta versus on the side. However, if you want to skip the broccoli in this recipe, you totally can!
what is bucatini cacio e pepe?
Cacio e pepe is a pasta dish from Rome (one of my favorite Italian cities!). It translates to cheese and pepper, and that’s really the main gist of this recipe. Traditionally you use Pecorino Romano cheese, but you can also use parmesan cheese.
This Roman pasta dish is all about highlighting the simple ingredients involved. The sauce is this creamy, peppery creation that is truly delectable. You’ll find that this dish will become an instant favorite as soon as you make it!
broccoli. I prefer to use fresh broccoli here. You will only need one head! If you are using frozen, be sure to thaw it completely and cut the cook time to 5 minutes in the oven.
oil. You will need extra-virgin olive oil to coat the broccoli.
lemon juice. Fresh lemon juice is always best!
red pepper flakes. These are optional, but I like the extra note of heat they bring to the party.
pasta. Bucatini is preferred for this recipe! However, you can also use spaghetti, if you prefer.
butter. Use unsalted butter. If you only have salted butter, be sure to cut back on the amount of salt you add to the pasta water.
black pepper. Freshly cracked black pepper is a key component of this recipe. Do not use finely ground black pepper. You will get so much more flavor out of the recipe if you use freshly ground black pepper!
cheese. I like to use Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano cheese for this recipe. Both cheeses have their own flavor profiles (details on that can be found below in the FAQs), so choose whichever one you love the most!
this recipe’s must haves
Use a large stockpot to boil the water to cook the bucatini.
To bring the whole recipe together you will need a large skillet or sauté pan. I also like to use a set of tongs to toss the pasta easily.
Don’t forget the cheese grater to finely grate the cheese!
here’s how to make bucatini cacio e pepe with broccoli
Toss together broccoli with olive oil, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Spread out on a lined baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes at 450˚F. Remove from oven and set aside.
While the broccoli is roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until just al dente. This is usually a couple of minutes shy of the cook time noted on the packaging.
Be sure to reserve the pasta water before moving on! I simply remove the pasta from the pot with tongs to avoid accidentally dumping it down the sink drain.
While the pasta is cooking, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pepper and cook for 30 seconds. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Add cooked pasta to the large skillet of melted butter and pepper. Add 1/3 cup of reserved pasta water to the pan and toss the pasta to combine. Sprinkle over a quarter of the grated pecorino romano cheese (or parmesan) and toss the pasta to combine. Add the cheese in these small increments, waiting until the cheese has melted in between each addition, to create the creamy sauce.
If the sauce is too thick, add a few tablespoons of pasta water as needed. The cheese will melted and form a smooth glossy sauce.
Fold in the broccoli florets and serve pasta immediately. I recommend serving with extra freshly ground pepper and plenty of freshly grated cheese. Enjoy right away!
tips for success
bloom the pepper. Don’t skip blooming the pepper in the skillet! This is one of the most important steps because it really maximizes the flavor of the pepper. I also recommend using freshly cracked black pepper because the flavor is noticeably better.
salt pasta water. Salting the water is always a must with cooking pasta, period. However, it’s even MORE important because that pasta water is what makes the creamy cacio e pepe sauce.
al dente pasta is the goal. Make sure that you do not overcook your pasta! You want to cook it until it just hits al dente (this is usually about 2 minutes shy of what the box instructions say). There should be a bit of a bite to it! The pasta will continue to cook with the sauce.
how can I avoid the cheese from clumping?
There are lots of techniques that go into a simple recipe like bucatini cacio e pepe. The main idea when making cacio e pepe is to make a creamy cheesy sauce without it all clumping. Trust me when I say, I still make the mistake and end up with clumpy cheese if I’m rushing through this recipe!
So first, slow down. Make sure that you have freshly grated, good quality cheese. Also, be sure to finely grate the cheese so it melts easier! If the cheese is coarsely grated it will take much longer for it to melt, thus increasing the risk of it all clumping together.
The most important tip of all, do not add all of the cheese at once! When you add all the cheese at once, you will end up with clumps. Slowly add the cheese in little increments so there is more sauce than cheese. That way the cheese will incorporate into the sauce, instead of melding together into a giant clump that will never melt.
can I use a different type of pasta?
Personally, I think that bucatini is the best pasta for cacio e pepe because of it’s texture. However, if you don’t like bucatini or if you can’t get your hands on it, you can substitute it with spaghetti!
can I make this ahead of time?
This could just me my own personal opinion, but I don’t think that cacio e pepe ever tastes as good as it does when it is first prepared. This recipe doesn’t make a ton so you likely won’t have leftovers! If you do, you can still store and eat it later.
To store it, place leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will last for up to five days. To reheat, simply place in the microwave or on the stovetop. I have more details below on how to reheat the pasta the right way!
should I use pecorino romano or parmesan cheese?
You can use either! Both parmesan and pecorino romano work for this recipe. The difference between the two? Well, parmesan cheese is made from cow’s milk and is aged to make it salty and nutty. Pecorino is also aged and salty, but it’s made from sheep’s milk and is aged for less time typically. This means that pecorino has a stronger, more pungent flavor than parmesan. It will still taste great in this recipe! I recommend using whatever cheese you prefer to eat normally.
my pasta is dry, what do I do?
If your pasta seems dry at the end of cooking, add a little bit of pasta water to help the sauce get to the right consistency. You may need to make a couple of additions of pasta water to accomplish this.
my pasta sauce is too runny, what do I do?
If your pasta is swimming in sauce, gently let it simmer until it has thickened up a bit. You can also add a bit of pasta water to help the sauce thicken a little more (I know this seems like the opposite thing to do, but it will help it thicken as you let the sauce simmer).
Need more inspiration for spring recipes? Check out my spring recipes page!
what to serve with bucatini cacio e pepe
Since this cacio e pepe recipe already has vegetables in it, you can easily serve it as a vegetarian main dish! It also works as a side to your favorite proteins like steak, chicken, pork, and seafood. If you are looking for suggested mains to pair with this pasta, here are some of my personal favorites:
My classic roasted chicken with white wine and fresh herbs is an easy meal! Add a salad if you want to get some extra vegetables in.
I love to take slices of balsamic grilled flank steak and serve it on top of the pasta to make it a meaty main dish.
Simple and quick air fryer scallops are lovely to serve over this pasta dish! You can skip the chive butter, or drizzle it on top.
For dessert, I love something light and bright like this easy strawberry shortcake in a jar!
how to store and reheat
Store. Leftovers can be store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Reheat. To reheat in the microwave, add a splash of water to an individual serving. Microwave for 1 minute, stir, and then continue to heat in 30 second intervals until warmed through the way you like. I recommend reheating on the stovetop if you are reheating a large portion. Add pasta to a saucepan and add a splash of water to help revive the sauce over medium-low heat.
Finally, if you make this bucatini cacio e pepe pasta recipe, please be sure to give this recipe a rating or leave a comment! I love to hear when you all make recipes, and I do take the time to respond to every single comment. Feel free to drop questions below too, if you have them!
Oh and be sure to tag me on Instagram if you make the recipe! I love being able to see these recipes come to life in your homes – it’s my favorite thing to look through those photos. It really means the world to me!
bucatini cacio e pepe with broccoli
- 1 bunch broccoli cut into florets approximately 1-2” in length
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 pinches red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
- 8 oz uncooked bucatini you can also use spaghetti
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 tsp freshly-ground coarse black pepper
- 2 oz finely-grated Pecorino-Romano cheese or Parmesan
- Preheat the oven to 450˚F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, add broccoli, oil, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper, then toss to combine. Spread out in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
- Roast broccoli for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add bucatini and cook until just al dente (about 2 minutes shy of the instructions on the package).
- While the pasta cooks, melt butter for the pasta. Add pepper and cook for about 30 seconds to allow it to bloom. Turn off the heat and set aside for the moment.
- Once pasta is done, use tongs to transfer the pasta to the skillet with melted butter and pepper. Add 1/3 cup of reserved pasta water to the pan and toss the pasta to combine. Sprinkle over a quarter of the grated pecorino romano cheese (or parmesan) and toss the pasta to combine. Add the cheese in these small increments, waiting until the cheese has melted in between each addition, to create the creamy sauce.
- If the sauce is too thick, add a few tablespoons of pasta water as needed. The cheese will melted and form a smooth glossy sauce.
- Fold in the broccoli florets and serve pasta immediately. I recommend serving with extra freshly ground pepper and plenty of freshly grated cheese. Enjoy right away!