This Cooking Hack Could Keep Your Cacio E Pepe From Clumping

Not long ago, before TikTok's baked feta and tomato pasta, cacio e pepe was the hottest pasta dish around. Though it has receded into the background, tons of people still love it and make it at home. However, for a dish that calls for so few ingredients, it can actually be rather difficult to make just right. One of the main issues people face when making the dish is that the sauce sometimes turns out lumpy. 

There are two primary problems with this particular version of pasta that could be at fault for causing the dish to clump up. The first is an issue with how you prepare the cheese for the sauce. If it is not very finely grated, then the cheese will be the ingredient that makes the sauce clumpy (via Carlsbad Cravings). When the cheese is grated into pieces that are too large, it doesn't melt as fast as it should and is large enough to make the other ingredients stick to it. So try using the smallest side of your box grater if this sounds like the problem you might be facing.

You also need to pay attention to the pasta water

Another culprit of clumping cacio e pepe is the pasta water. Starch in the pasta water is what allows the sauce to mix with the cheese and pepper to become a homogenous pasta sauce. So if you add too much water to the pasta, it thins out the starch in the water and won't allow the sauce to create an emulsion. That's why a Reddit post suggests using as little water as possible.

While using concentrated pasta water will help make the sauce just right, you might have to enlist the help of a cornstarch slurry to help thicken the sauce still (via Reddit). Keep in mind the mixture must be brought to a boil to successfully thicken with the cornstarch mixture. Even then, if you use water that is too cold, it could cause the cheese in the sauce to seize or suddenly stiffen at the temperature change and become clumpy. Because of this, the Redditor emphasizes using warm water to make the slurry and to thin the sauce if necessary.