Difference Between Cacio e Pepe and Authentic Alfredo Pasta

I’m not funny at all, yet situations sometimes turn hilarious for me as well, all of a sudden! 

Is it because of some joke? 

YEAH, practical jokes made during gourmet pasta making like carbonara, Alfredo and cacio e pepe! Out of the blue, they put cream in Alfredo or cacio e pepe pasta, and I can’t help laughing.

Please stop doing that!

It couldn’t serve people with an understanding of what real Italian or Roman pasta is and how two different kinds of pasta, like Alfredo and Cacio de pepe, differ. 

This is why, today, I’m going to save you by telling you the differences between Alfredo fettuccine pasta and cacio e pepe as they’re made in Rome. So, hang out with today’s post for a few minutes to discover two pastas in wonderlands of differences.

Key Takeaways

Cacio e pepe is made with Pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper, and thick spaghetti.

Alfredo is made with Parmesan cheese, butter, and ribbon pasta.

Cacio e pepe has a grainy texture and a peppery flavor, while Alfredo has a velvety texture and a mild, creamy flavor.

Cacio e pepe is also lower in calories than Alfredo.

Understanding Traditional Roman Cacio e Pepe Pasta

Cacio e Pepe is a classic Roman 3 ingredients pasta featuring: 

  • Thick spaghetti semi-cooked in sightly salted water because the cheese is salted. So, it’ll compensate the flavor.
  • Black pepper simmered with pasta water. 
  • Iconic Pecorino Romano cheese (grated) is added at the last stage when spaghetti is again cooked with simmered peppers and some pasta water. After adding cheese, the pasta is tossed until a cream texture develops. And your salty, peppery, grainy pasta is ready to enjoy!

The name literally translates to “cheese and pepper” in Italian.

The origins of cacio e pepe are unclear, but it’s believed to have originated in the 18th century among shepherds in the Apennine Mountains. The shepherds would carry Pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper, and dried pasta with them as they traveled, and they would combine these ingredients to create a simple and satisfying meal.

Cacio e pepe first appeared in Roman cookbooks in the early 19th century, and it quickly became a popular dish among the city’s working class. The dish was also adopted by some of Rome’s finest restaurants, and it has since become one of the most iconic dishes of Roman cuisine.

Cacio e pepe is a simple dish to make, but only with the right ingredients, like:

  • The pasta should be made from durum wheat semolina
  • The Pecorino Romano cheese should be aged for at least 12 months. 
  • And the black pepper should be freshly ground, and it should be added to the pasta immediately after it is drained. 

The cacio e pepe pasta carries less drama with it. Most of the time, you find recipes illustrating the original methods of preparing the pasta.

Understanding Alfredo Pasta

Unlike cacio e pepe pasta, the Alfredo Fettuccine pasta has been the worst treated. I don’t know who from hell started telling folks to add cream to Alfredo pasta or even to add more adversity as Alfredo sauce to ribbon pasta. Come on, Italians don’t even care about what you call “sauce!”

Then what real Italian fettuccine Alfredo pasta is?

Ah, it’s a journey from butter to parmesan only, and your dear pasta ribbons join these two destinations forming roads.

The dish is named after Alfredo di Lelio, who created it in Rome in the early 1900s. The name “Alfredo” comes from the Italian word for “rich” or “elegant.” This is a reference to the rich, creamy sauce that coats the pasta. The name “Fettuccine” comes from the Italian word for “little ribbons.” This is a reference to the shape of the pasta noodles.

As compared with cacio e pepe, fettuccine also features 3 ingredients:

  • Boiled ¼ inch-wide ribbon pasta (fresh or dried) in salty water
  • Butter on which hot boiled pasta with some pasta water is thrown and butter melts under it. 
  • Grated cheese that’s added and mixed in hot cooked pasta so that thick creamy, and velvety texture overwhelms the pasta ribbons. To incorporate the cheese into pasta, the forks are used to lift the pasta in the air and let it safely land in the dish; the process is repeated until the texture is attained. Then optionally it’s garnished with basil leaves. And you’re ready to enjoy the mild creamy taste of Alfredo pasta.

That’s it!

Did you find me mentioning this or that cream? 


Remember your Alfredo and cacio e pepe to be the simplest pasta, dear! Simplicity can hold all the delicacy, refinement, and taste in it!

Summarizing the Key Distinction Between Cacio e Pepe and Alfredo 

Though cacio e pepe and Alfredo pasta are uncomplicated pasta, they have some differences to draw a thin line between them. These are:

  • Cacio e pepe originated in Rome, while Alfredo hails from Italy.
  • Cacio e pepe uses Pecorino Romano cheese, while Alfredo pasta requires you to use parmesan cheese. 
  • The Pecorino Romano cheese and ground peppers give the grainy texture to cacio e pepe pasta. In contrast, the Alfredo pasta has a velvety texture owing to a generous amount of parmesan cheese and butter.
  • In cacio, you need to use pepper which imparts peppery flavors. But Alfredo pasta has no use of any sort of pepper.
  • Cacio e pepe pasta is made using thick spaghetti to which grainy pepper and cheese can stick. On the other hand, you use ribbon pasta for Alfredo to hold the sauce.
  • Alfredo pasta is creamy, nutty and mild in taste, while cacio e pepe pasta tastes tangy, salty and peppery.
  • Cacio e pepe is a relatively low-calorie choice if you’re counting on calories, for it only uses Pecorino Romano cheese. But rich Alfredo pasta with butter and parmesan cheese is loaded with fats and calories. 

So, next time you’re craving a creamy pasta dish, consider what flavor profile you’re in the mood for. If you’re seeking a simple yet robust taste, opt for Cacio e Pepe. However, if you desire a velvety and luxurious experience, Alfredo will surely hit the spot. But don’t forget to educate your dear ones about these two authentic pasta realities by sharing this post.

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Cashmere Muhammad
Cashmere Muhammad

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