Cacio e Pepe Pizza
Meet my new favorite pizza ever. This cacio e pepe pizza is inspired by the classic Italian pasta for a cheesy, rich, cozy dinner situation. With chewy crust, garlic butter, Pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper, and creamy ricotta, this is about to be your new go-to for casual get-togethers.
If I had to choose to eat one pizza for the rest of my life, I think it would have to be white pizza. Maybe some of you pizza purists out there would be utterly shocked by pesto, BBQ sauce, or béchamel on a pizza, but I’m here for it.
In this version, we’re doing a cacio e pepe thing because I’ve been obsessed with the cheese and pepper combo ever since it first graced my Instagram feed a few years ago. Let’s make it!
About this pizza
This is the kind of pizza where, even if I’m so full that I’m questioning my life choices, I will have just one more slice. The recipe is based on the white pizza I’ve been making since pastry school, but it has a cacio e pepe twist!
- The pizza is simple to make with just a handful of ingredients.
- It’s cheesy, cozy, and super flavorful thanks to garlic and black pepper.
- You can make it in a pizza oven or just a regular oven!
- It’s the perfect contender for Pizza Friday, movie nights with friends, or snuggled up in sweats on the couch.
What is cacio e pepe?
If you’ve never had cacio e pepe, you’re totally missing out. It’s a pasta dish that originates from Rome and translates literally to ‘cheese and pepper’. The dish is made up of pasta, Pecorino Romano, black pepper, and butter or oil. Even though it’s been around since probably the 1800s, it has recently gotten popular in the states so naturally, it’s been all over social media. In this recipe, we’re pizza-fying the dish cause like, what’s not good in pizza form?
- Pizza dough – you can use store-bought or homemade dough. I usually make my husband’s Sicilian-style pizza dough recipe and just stretch it into a circle rather than a sheet pan.
- Garlic – use fresh garlic for the best flavor. I use two cloves but if you’re sensitive to garlic, just use one.
- Butter – this will be used as the ‘sauce’ for this pizza. It will add a buttery flavor without getting too greasy!
- Mozzarella – use whole milk mozzarella for the best flavor and ultimate meltiness.
- Pecorino Romano – this is a hard, salty Italian cheese usually made with sheep’s milk. I highly recommend grating the cheese yourself, it tastes so much better than pre-shredded!
- Ricotta – go for whole milk ricotta to add a bit of creaminess. This is definitely my favorite part of white pizza!
- Black pepper – freshly-ground black pepper is key to a good cacio e pepe. Grind the peppercorns with a pepper mill or crush them with a mortar and pestle.
- Basil – I like to add a bit of fresh basil at the end for a pop of freshness. You can leave this out if you prefer!
- Flour and cornmeal – a bit of flour and cornmeal will prevent the dough from sticking to the pizza peel when you transfer it to the oven. The cornmeal will give the pizza that signature ‘pizza parlor’ crunch on the bottom, but if you don’t have any, flour will be fine!
Substitutions & variations
- Butter – if you prefer an olive oil-based pizza, use a good extra virgin olive oil instead.
- Pecorino Romano – Parmesan will also work great in this recipe.
- Ricotta – for a simpler dish, you can make this white pizza without ricotta cheese.
- Meat – try adding bacon or chicken if you want a little extra protein.
How to make this recipe
- To make this pizza, start by evenly stretching the pizza dough into a circle that’s between 10-12 inches across. It should be fairly thin in the center with a thicker crust. Place the stretched dough on a pizza peel or cutting board dusted with flour and cornmeal (to prevent sticking).
- Next, melt the butter and mix it with the fresh garlic.
- Brush the garlic butter on the pizza dough, leaving a 1/2-1 inch rim for the crust.
- Sprinkle the Mozzarella and Pecorino Romano on the pizza dough.
- Dollop the ricotta on top of the pizza. Finish with a generous amount of freshly-ground black pepper.
- Bake the pizza at 500°F for 9-10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden-brown. Garnish with fresh basil, slice, and enjoy!
Storing & freezing
To store leftover pizza, place the slices in a single layer in an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3-4 days. To reheat the slices, just microwave them for about 1 minute at full power. Or, place a sheet pan in your oven and heat it to 350°F. Carefully place the pizza slices on the hot sheet pan and bake for 7-10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and the bottom is crisp.
You can also freeze pizza! Just place the slices on a sheet pan and freeze until solid, 2-3 hours. Place the frozen slices in a freezer bag or airtight container and freeze for up to 2 months. To heat the pizza, place a sheet pan under the broiler and let it get hot. Place the frozen slices on the hot sheet pan and broil for 4-5 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the bottom is crisp.
This Parmesan and black pepper pizza is great on its own but I also like to round out the meal with a couple of side dishes if I’m serving a crowd. These are some of my favorites!
- Caesar or green salad
- Garlic bread
- Lemony green beans
- Charred broccoli with pecorino
- Antipasto tortellini pasta salad
- Dust the pizza peel with flour and cornmeal before assembling the pizza. This will keep the bottom of the pizza dough from sticking when you transfer it to the oven!
- Cook the pizza on your highest oven setting. Mine is 500°F but yours may go up even higher. You want to cook the pizza quickly for that charred bottom and bubbly cheese!
- Bake the pizza until the bottom has some charred spots (a.k.a. leoparding). This will give you the classic Neapolitan pizza flavor with a chewy, caramelized crust.
- Cool the pizza on a wire rack. This will keep the crust nice and crisp!
- Let the pizza ‘rest’ for about 5 minutes before slicing, just like you would with lasagna. Otherwise, the cheese may fall off the pizza.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What does cacio e pepe taste like?
Cacio e pepe is a simple mix of ingredients but has a bold flavor thanks to the Pecorino Romano! It’s creamy, salty, and buttery with a bit of spice thanks to the black pepper. Even though it’s usually a pasta dish, we get the same flavor on this pizza!
Can I make this with a pizza oven?
Totally! Just follow the manufacturer’s directions for the best results. In my Ooni Fyra 12, it’s about 950°F for 60-90 seconds.
What if I don’t have a pizza stone or peel?
If you don’t have a pizza stone, no worries! You can just place a sheet pan in the oven while it’s heating. You want a very hot surface to bake the pizza on so that the bottom crisps up.
If you don’t have a pizza peel, you can use a wood cutting board instead! Make sure it’s flat (no ridges) so the pizza easily slides off of the board and onto the pizza stone or sheet pan.
Can I use store-bought pizza dough?
Sure! I prefer the taste and texture of homemade dough, but in a pinch, I like a good-quality store-bought dough. You will need around 2 pounds of dough for this recipe.
Can I make this recipe without ricotta?
Yes! If you’re not a fan of ricotta, or you just want a simpler Parmesan and black pepper pizza, just leave out the ricotta. The mozzarella and Parmesan is plenty of cheese on its own!
More Italian-inspired recipes to try!
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Cacio e Pepe Pizza
- All-purpose flour and cornmeal, for dusting
- 2 pounds pizza dough, homemade or store-bought
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 large garlic cloves, finely minced (about 2 Tablespoons)
- 8 ounces whole milk mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 2 ounces grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus more for serving
- 2/3 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- Freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
- Fresh basil, for serving (optional)
- Pizza stone, (optional)
- Pizza Peel (optional)
- Place a pizza stove in the oven and preheat it to 500°F (or the highest temperature it will go). Generously dust a pizza peel with flour and cornmeal. Set aside.
- Divid the pizza dough into 2 balls. Starting with 1 ball, use your fingers to press a 1/2'' rim around the ball for the crust. Then, gently stretch the dough, turning it about 45° after each stretch, until you have a thin 10-12'' circle with a slightly thicker crust. Place the stretched dough on the prepared pizza peel.
- Melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave (or in a small saucepan on the stove). Add the minced garlic and stir to combine. Brush half of the garlic butter on the pizza dough, leaving a 1/2'' border for the crust.
- Sprinkle 4 ounces of the mozzarella and 1 ounce of the Pecorino Romano over the garlic butter. Use a spoon to dollop 1/3 cup of ricotta cheese all over the top of the pizza. Generously sprinkle the pizza with freshly-ground black pepper.
- Gently slide the pizza off of the peel and onto the heated pizza stone. Close the oven and bake for 9-10 minutes, rotating it halfway, until the cheese is bubbly and bottom of the crust is crisp and has light char marks.
- Carefully remove the pizza from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Let it cool for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, repeat the above process with the remaining ingredients to make two pizzas.
- Sprinkle the finished pizzas with more Parmesan and black pepper, to taste. Garnish with fresh basil if desired, slice, and enjoy!
xo Sara Lynn
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