Cacio e pepe (kah-chee-oh ee peh-pay), literally “cheese and pepper,” is a simple traditional Italian dish. It’s like an epic adult macaroni and cheese. This version uses plant-based ingredients and circumvents problems, such as cheese that clumps or a sauce that separates and is watery. I recommend only 13 ounces of pasta, as I could not have fit more in my very large sauté pan. You’re going to want a juicy balsamic-dressed salad alongside.


1 Tbsp. black peppercorns

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil (your best)

2 cloves garlic, minced

¾ cup whole raw cashews

½ cup plain nondairy milk

2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

2 Tbsp. mellow white miso

13 ounces high-quality spaghetti, such as Dreamfield’s


1. Boil the cashews for 10 minutes. Rinse them and drain them.

2. Put the peppercorns in a plastic bag and crush them with a meat mallet, rolling pin, or the bottom of a glass.

3. In your blender, combine the cashews, milk, yeast, lemon juice, and miso. Process on high speed until completely smooth and creamy.

4. Cook the spaghetti al dente according to package directions. Before you drain the pasta, scoop out and reserve 2 cups of cooking water.

5. While the pasta is cooking, toast the crushed peppercorns in a large, dry sauté pan on medium heat for a minute until fragrant.

6. Add the olive oil and garlic to the pan and cook for another minute or two, until the garlic is beginning to brown.

7. Turn the heat to low. Add the sauce from the blender to the sauté pan and use a whisk to combine it with the olive oil. Keep whisking while you gradually add small amounts of the hot pasta water to the pan, maybe about 1 ½ cups total. Keep whisking until the sauce is silky smooth, creamy, and emulsified.

8. Add the drained pasta to the sauce. Stir until it is well coated, adding a little more hot pasta water to thin the sauce if necessary. Taste for salt. Serve immediately, with a little more crushed pepper if you’re daring.

Wendy Andresen lives in Camden with her husband, Ray; her Sheltie, Sunshine; and her bunny, Rustle. She welcomes responses to her column at