Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe

June 1, 2016
Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe - Literally "cheese and pepper", this minimalist pasta is like a stripped-down mac and cheese. Lemon adds spunk, arugula for color & healthy dose of greens

“I am a sucker for those old traditional places, and Rome is as good as it gets, particularly when you throw in Italian food”     ~ Roger Federer

Whispers From The Past - (The Colosseum - Rome, Italy)

Photo Credit: The Colosseum via WalkingTree.org

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Not long ago our neighbors took a month-long trip to Italy

A place they've wanted to visit for as long as I've known them.  He (a history buff) looked forward to seeing all of the historical sites, she (a quiet intellectual) couldn't wait for the peacefulness of the countryside

After they returned, we had the best of intentions “Let's bring over a bottle of wine, sit on their deck, and ask them all about it.”  Instead, the days passed by as they usually do, and the best we could muster was friendly waves and promises of

“We've got to get together soon.”

Eventually, enough was enough, and it was decided; we're going to make it happen.  That's when things became tricky

Take a few families, all with different summer calendars.  Those packed with the likes of business trips, children, grandchildren, extracurricular activities, grill-outs, a wedding (and a partridge in a pear tree?) and try to find

an evening to get together

Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe - Literally "cheese and pepper", this minimalist pasta is like a stripped-down mac and cheese. Lemon adds spunk, arugula for color & healthy dose of greens

And yet, it happened.  We did it(!)

The night was picture perfect, so we ate dinner outside.  As I listened to everyone tell stories of their days, I couldn't help but smile.  My goodness, if there's any comparison to a twisted game of Tetris, it would have to be

a woman's calendar

Women are notoriously flexible creatures, are we not?  Schedules that shift here and there like tiny wooden Jenga pieces. “Would it be ok to call a bit early?  Can we move lunch back to 2?  Does 7 pm work for dinner?  I'll be there in 10 (shoot, make that 20)”

Yet, amid the shuffle, it's easy to shift ourselves aside.  The things we need, time earmarked for recharging our batteries. How easy it is to let everything else spinning around us be so unmovable, and set in stone.

Doctor appointments, deadlines at work, kids activities, dropping our dog off at the groomer, families visiting, and ack(!)

How can it be Monday already?  We need to take out the trash

“Can I beg a rain check on our dinner?”

But this past weekend, our candy-colored Tetris games read just one line:  an evening with friends

Dinner Under the Stars 1-680x

Photo Credit: we-are-scout.com

She'd cooked one of her signature veggie-filled curries.  I made a strawberry rhubarb crisp, and a big salad.  Others brought bread, appetizers, and some pretty incredible bottles of wine.

We talked the night away, chatting about everything from making pasta in Italy to gondola rides in Venice.

As we said our good-byes and headed off into the night, everyone was happier for it all.  We were happier for pausing, sitting,  resting, and letting ourselves be transported to a place so very far away.  Happy that we'd not dared to move the Tetris line we'd built into our week

the evening set aside for friendship

Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe - Literally "cheese and pepper", this minimalist pasta is like a stripped-down mac and cheese. Lemon adds spunk, arugula for color & healthy dose of greens

I've always been an introvert and given a choice; I'm far more comfortable observing than participating.  As a result, for nearly forty years, my female relationships (and those as a married couple), sadly, were anything but spectacular.

There came the point where I decided to change all that, but admittedly the process has been anything but easy.  Worthwhile?  Yes(!)  Comfortable?  Not so much

Over the past few months, I've also been touched by Dr. Laura and the death of her husband of thirty years this past November.

As she's begun sharing snippets of her grief, my heart has gone out to her.  The breaths whispered about loss, are followed by those of gratitude for the people surrounding her.  How thankful she is to have taken the time over the years, to build and nurture such

a strong and diverse network of friendships

Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe - Literally "cheese and pepper", this minimalist pasta is like a stripped-down mac and cheese. Lemon adds spunk, arugula for color & healthy dose of greens

Therefore, it's nights like this that serve as gentle reminders

How easy it is to forget how much I need other people (especially women) in my life.  I'm better when I hear someone else's story reverberate against my own.  I'm reminded that a woman's mind is such a cool thing.  A library card catalog really, filled with vast amounts of

knowledge, experience, perspective

Looking for hope?  Here's a story.  Seeking truth?  Listen to this.  Need a great recipe for an everyday salad?  Wait a second, let me find it; there, perfect, this one.

Over the years, every lunch date I've accepted, every Spaghetti Saturday we've hosted, every dinner get-together purposed, has been a nudge out of my comfort zone.

Intentional steps toward fostering a network of good to surround us, a network of support.  Knowing that prioritizing friendships is work, filled with balance and expectations.  But then again, good work nearly always brings a great reward.

This past weekend, another affirmation that the rewards can be plenty.

How wonderful it felt to be surrounded by stories of Italy, wine, bread, dinner under the stars, not to mention a backyard library filled with

a heck of a lot of wisdom

Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe - Literally "cheese and pepper", this minimalist pasta is like a stripped-down mac and cheese. Lemon adds spunk, arugula for color & healthy dose of greens

A new recipe to share today, a fantastically delicious twist on a classic Roman dish

Cacio e Pepe is a dish that appears on nearly every menu in Rome.  It's the simplest of dishes really; grated Pecorino Romano cheese freshly ground black pepper and pasta water.

If one were to watch a practiced hand make it, they might think the instructions were as simple as cooking the noodles and drain. Toss with olive oil, butter, black pepper, and grated cheese.  Serve

But we all know the simplest of recipes can often be the most confounding.  In the end, what you're going for is a creamy sauce that coats each strand of spaghetti with flavor.

For something with such a simple list of ingredients, methods, and ingredients for preparing this are all over the map.  Some versions use oil or butter; others vary when it comes to the cheese (grate it finely, mix in small pebbles of Romano).  Still others, such as this add their own flavors

No matter the prep method or ingredients used, it seems people will find something inauthentic with each variation.  To which I say?

Ignore them all and simply enjoy your spaghetti!


ps:  More fun recipes and stories from Spaghetti Saturdays

— — —

~ Adapted from Cravings by Chrissy Teigen

Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe


  • kosher salt for salting the pasta water
  • 12 oz dried spaghetti (gluten-free if you’re avoiding gluten)
  • ¼ lb about ¾ cup pancetta or bacon, finely diced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp garlic, minced (~ 4 big cloves)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes +/- depending on your heat tolerance
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper + more to taste
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (fresh is best)
  • 1 ½ cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese + more for serving
  • 3 cups baby arugula, roughly torn


  • In a large pot of heavily salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti to al dente according to the package directions.
  • Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water (it comes in handy), then drain the pasta.
  • Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the pancetta until crisped (~ 7 to 9 minutes)
  • Add the olive oil, then add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and black pepper and cook until fragrant (~ 1 minute)
  • Add the lemon juice to the skillet, then add the drained pasta. Toss to coat.
  • Add the cheese and toss, adding the pasta water, a couple of tablespoons at a time (the pasta water helps the cheese coat the pasta)
  • Add the arugula and toss until it wilts about 1 minute.
  • Season to taste with additional salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Serve with more cheese
Serves: 8
Nutrition + Show
Calories 338
Total Fat 18.5g
Saturated Fat 6.5g
Carbohydrates 33g
Fiber 4.4g
Sugars 1.5g
Protein 13.2g
Print This Recipe

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  • Reply Ana De- Jesus February 19, 2017 at 8:27 am

    It is always nice to put some time aside for friends and this pasta dish looked like the perfect accompaniment to the perfect evening! xx

  • Reply Ivelisse March 15, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    5 stars
    OMG that looks so good! I cannot say enough about how magical olive oil is! It instantly gives that extra POW to any dish. I bet this dish taste even better the next day.


  • Reply Ana Ojha March 16, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    5 stars
    I love pasta and this Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe looks absolutely delicious and mouth-watering! I wish if you were my neighbor so that I could have all the delicacies every day!

  • Reply Alli Smith May 4, 2017 at 2:35 am

    5 stars
    In the famous words of Mr. Rogers, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” You’ve encouraged me to make room in my roller coaster of a ride schedule and make time for old friends and new. Your Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe looks amazing! I have to make it this weekend. It’s calling my name!

  • Reply Sarah Bailey June 17, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    I would absolutely love to go to Italy and to go for a month must have been absolutely fantastic. It is hard trying to catch up isn’t it sometimes.

  • Reply Mellissa Williams June 17, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    5 stars
    That pasta dish is so simple but delicious. I’ve had it in Rome. Yum

  • Reply Tanya Brannan June 19, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    Oh this recipe sounds fabulous! Simple but so good and I’d love to give it a go. I also know what you mean about calendar clashing and time rushing by. I think we are all guilty of it xx

    • Reply Sarah Bailey May 15, 2018 at 8:14 am

      I am with you on that it sounds like it would taste absolutely amazing – I totally need to give it a try! YUM!

  • Reply Robin May 15, 2018 at 4:25 am

    Yeah, time really does go by way too fast and I need to make more time for friends than I currently do. This sounds like a great meal to share with them.

  • Reply Ricci May 15, 2018 at 4:44 am

    You had me at lemony..LOL!! I am obsessed with pretty much anything lemon these days, especially in my pasta/pasta sauce. I bet this is amazing!!

  • Reply Chubskulit Rose May 15, 2018 at 5:07 am

    I hear you with the schedule changes! We have a very close friend whom we talked to often but we seldom get together because of schedule conflict. That spaghetti looks delicious though.

  • Reply Candy May 15, 2018 at 6:11 am

    We would love to visit Italy one day. Who doesn’t love Italian food. Past is wonderful.

  • Reply Wendy May 15, 2018 at 6:24 am

    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

  • Reply Val May 15, 2018 at 7:03 am

    5 stars
    That spaghetti sounds flavorful. My husband and I haven’t had “couple friends” in many years so we don’t have anyone to have get togethers with anymore.

  • Reply Amber Myers May 15, 2018 at 7:21 am

    5 stars
    It’s always nice when you can get together with friends. Schedules can get tricky, but I’m always happy when things work out. I absolutely LOVE pasta and this looks incredible. I want to go to Italy one day and just pig out.

  • Reply Melissa Chapman May 15, 2018 at 8:27 am

    4 stars
    Days, weeks and months go by and we end up running and never getting together, we all have to make the efforts. I loved this pasta dish and will use these ideas in my own spaghetti.

  • Reply Lynn May 15, 2018 at 11:16 am

    At 4:30 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 16-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!!!

  • Reply Farrah May 15, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    5 stars
    When I was single its so easy to set time for meeting with friends. Most of the time after work. But now that we are married we hardly talk to each other (sigh) . This Arugula Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe looks so tasty now im craving for it.

  • Reply Emily May 15, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    5 stars
    I love getting together with friends and family! It has been some of my favorite memories, and having good food there too is always a must. You can never go wrong with pasta.

  • Reply Tasheena May 15, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    Huge fan of pasta! I love the idea of having a spaghetti Saturday lunch date. This recipe would be perfect for it.

  • Reply Carol May 15, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    5 stars
    Sometimes, all we need is a sit down with friends while passing along some good food and awesome stories about life. I love that you try as juch as you can even when you’re oiut of your comfort zone. This recipe is a delight.

  • Reply Lisa May 15, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    I think a meal shared with friends or family is always the best meal you can have. This dish looks so light and tasty, the perfect summer pasta.

  • Reply Terri Steffes May 15, 2018 at 7:41 pm

    5 stars
    I love the freshness of this dish. I know my daughter and I would love this. I might make it for her when it is just the two of us.

  • Reply Peter May 15, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    I love simple and rustic dishes like this. Sounds like such a wonderful evening you al had with a whole lot of incredible food

  • Reply Stephanie Pass May 16, 2018 at 12:29 am

    I love spaghetti! This looks so fantastic. I want to just twirl that up on my fork and take a bite!

  • Reply Debbie May 17, 2018 at 4:33 am

    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. The goal is to adore my grandbabies and have supper on the table. This recipe will be a home run.

  • Reply Elizabeth May 17, 2018 at 7:53 am

    5 stars
    Gosh that looks good, as does the sound of your wonderful dinner party! As I get older, and face subsequent difficulties, I’m learning the importance of nourishing relationships.

  • Reply Nichola May 17, 2018 at 8:42 am

    Oh wow that looks amazing. I love lemon in pasta although haven’t had it in ages. I will give this a go.

  • Reply Kelly May 17, 2018 at 8:55 am

    This looks absolutely delicious and I could definitely veganise it. I love the idea of the lemon which makes it a bit different from my usual aglio e olio.

  • Reply Tanya Brannan May 17, 2018 at 4:20 pm

    I don’t know what looks better, that table setting or the pasta! As I can’t have the table, I will happily be giving the pasta a go. Sounds so tasty yet really simple!

  • Reply Melanie May 18, 2018 at 5:51 am

    5 stars
    What a lovely combination. I do love pasta so it’s great to discover tasty new recipes that I can try. It seems to work nicely with lemon s this must taste amazing!

  • Reply Adriana May 18, 2018 at 10:55 pm

    this is certainly going on next weeks dinner menu! looks so delicious

  • Reply Cecilia Keinapel May 19, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    The pasta looks good.. but I just have to mention that as I’m writing I’m enjoying a DELICIOUS rosemary olive oil cake that I found in your archives. It’s stinkin’ hot in North Carolina also, but never too hot for cake! As long as the air conditioning is on full blast in the kitchen…I’ve been following your blog for a while and loving it… 🙂

  • Reply Corinne May 19, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    5 stars
    Taking some time to see your friends is essential. I don’t do it often enough i’ve got to admit! These spaghetti look delicious! I had never heard the term arugula before! I’d be so curious to try that recipe!

  • Reply Terri Beavers May 19, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    5 stars
    I could eat pasta for every meal, I love it that much. So this looks so scrumptious to me. I bet the lemony flavor really enhances it.

  • Reply Sharon May 19, 2018 at 9:05 pm

    This looks so yummy! My family loves spagetti so this is right up our alley. I’m going to try making this over the long weekend. Thanks for the recipe.

  • Reply Kristy Bullard May 20, 2018 at 7:31 am

    5 stars
    This sounds perfect for dinner tonight! We love pasta in our house. We’ll have to try this new recipe!

  • Reply Fritha Quinn June 12, 2018 at 8:23 am

    I know this is years later, but I have to say – I ADORE this pasta! If I could write a thousand-page epic saga to this lemony pasta, I would.

    Thank you for this recipe, thank you for the dozens of other incredible dishes you have brought into my life!

  • Reply Nita Okoye May 15, 2019 at 6:38 am

    5 stars
    I made this in a flurry of inspiration last night – it’s wonderful! Thanks Ali, a year or so late. 🙂
    My neighbor showed me your blog my freshman year of college (I was in a food writing class) and I’ve recently found you again, which I’m so glad about!

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