One-Pot Creamy Cacio e Pepe Orzo

published Jan 26, 2022
One-Pot Creamy Cacio e Pepe Orzo

This creamy, comforting orzo, inspired by the classic Roman pasta dish, is loaded with salty Pecorino cheese and plenty of black pepper.

Serves4 to 8

Prep5 minutes

Cook16 minutes to 18 minutes

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bowls of orzo cacio e pepe at the table
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Some people find comfort in buttered noodles. For me, it’s cacio e pepe. The humble Roman dish of pasta tossed with Pecorino Romano cheese and lots of black pepper is a lesson in how satisfying something can be with so few ingredients. It’s creamy, salty, spicy, and rich, all at the same time.

This one-pot orzo version of the iconic dish is hardly traditional, but it’s both super easy and incredibly delicious. The orzo and sauce are prepared simultaneously in the same pot, leaving you with almost no dishes to wash. Think of it as a whole new way to satisfy cacio e pepe cravings — and it’s ready to dig into in under 30 minutes.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Two Secrets to the Creamiest One-Pot Orzo

To ensure this dish is as creamy as possible, you won’t simply simmer the orzo in water. Instead, you’ll add some milk, too — ideally whole milk or, at the very least, 2%. The natural starches in the pasta will mingle with the milky cooking liquid, helping to thicken it and make it extra creamy. The other key step is stirring the orzo frequently. This not only prevents it from sticking to the bottom of the pot, but also helps release more of its starches during the cooking process — a bit like how risotto is made!

Serving Cacio e Pepe Orzo

I believe the coziest way to serve this orzo is to pile it into individual bowls and top it with a generous dollop of ricotta for a little extra creaminess. (Bonus points if you eat it while sitting on the couch.) But it’s also wonderful as a side dish to roast chicken, seared shrimp, or simply sautéed vegetables.

One-Pot Creamy Cacio e Pepe Orzo

This creamy, comforting orzo, inspired by the classic Roman pasta dish, is loaded with salty Pecorino cheese and plenty of black pepper.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 16 minutes to 18 minutes

Serves 4 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces

    Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (about 1 1/2 firmly packed cup grated on a Microplane or 1/3 cup store-bought)

  • 2 teaspoons

    coarsely ground black pepper, plus more for serving

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil, plus more for serving

  • 1 pound

    dried orzo pasta (about 2 1/2 cups)

  • 3 cups

    water

  • 2 cups

    whole or 2% milk

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • Whole-milk ricotta cheese, for serving as a main dish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Finely grate 3 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1 1/2 packed cups). Coarsely grind enough black pepper to get 2 teaspoons.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium (3.5-quart or larger) Dutch oven or pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the black pepper and 1 pound dried orzo, and sauté until the orzo is toasted in spots and the mixture is fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.

  3. Add 3 cups water, 2 cups whole or 2% milk, and 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring frequently to keep the orzo from sticking, until the orzo is al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed and has formed a creamy sauce, 10 to 12 minutes.

  4. Remove the pot from the heat. Add 1 packed cup of the Pecorino and stir until melted, about 30 seconds. If serving as a main dish, transfer to individual bowls and dollop with a generous spoonful of ricotta cheese, if using. If serving as a side dish, serve it right out of the pot or transfer to a large serving bowl. Garnish with the remaining Pecorino, several grinds of black pepper, and a generous drizzle of olive oil.

Recipe Notes

Parmesan variation: If you don't have Pecorino Romano cheese on hand or can't find it, an equal amount of Parmesan cheese can be used instead.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Add a little water to loosen when reheating.