Make Cacio e Pepe with Shereen Pavlides of Cooking with Shereen

It’s simple, but you have to pay attention to every step.

8 min read

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Known for her cheeky videos across her Cooking with Shereen channels, Shereen’s culinary career took a windy road. She worked as a food stylist, recipe developer, cooking teacher, columnist, and even a cake decorator for Buddy Valastro of “Cake Boss” fame. She experienced “lots of rejection, and a struggle to find my place and here I wanted to be.” Pavlides auditioned six times to be an on-air host for QVC before she landed the job. Looking back, she sees that “it was all great, because it prepared me for here I am now.”

As her culinary career thrived, friends and family started to ask Pavlides to share recipes and tips, which is how she began recording cooking videos and posting them on YouTube. “On YouTube, I became myself,” Pavlides says. “There was nobody telling me to wear my hair up. I could be authentically me with my strong personality and my sass. True Shereen came to life.”

Hungry viewers liked watching the “true Shereen.” Pavlides found her sweet spot on social media — first on TikTok (she started before the pandemic, when it was “just a lot of kids dancing around,” she says, and now has close to five million followers), then on YouTube and Instagram. She has a warm, inviting style with a punchy sense of humor. Her vibe is no-nonsense, with a genuinely helpful way of dispensing wisdom and “cheffy tips” (her term): “Don’t overcook it; it’ll be tough,” or, “This is the right consistency — it should coat the back of a spoon.” Pavlides is fun to watch. Plus, her food looks and tastes tantalizing on screens and IRL: Think crispy panko fried shrimp, short rib ragu lasagna, and chicken cutlets, a staple.

Pavlides assumed nobody would want to see her cook something as basic as chicken cutlets, a go-to weeknight meal in her family inspired by her Italian-American heritage. Then she thought, “screw it — I’m just going to show my chicken cutlets.” That’s when her TikTok “went full throttle,” growing exponentially. 

Her goal for her cookbooks, Cooking with Shereen from Scratch: Because You Can! and Cooking with Shereen ― Rockstar Dinners! is consistent with her brand online — she wants to teach people to “cook with their heart, keep it simple, and feel like a rockstar in the kitchen.”

The way she cooks one of her favorite dishes, cacio e pepe, is emblematic of her approach. Below, Pavlides shares how to make the ultimate Roman pasta staple. 

The Perfect Cacio e Pepe 

Literally "cheese and pepper," cacio e pepe is a staple in Rome and the definition of simplicity — the dish is traditionally made with only pasta, pepper, olive oil, and pecorino Romano cheese. It’s no wonder that the cheesy, creamy spaghetti is also hot on social media.

“The simplest things are the most difficult to make,” Pavlides says. “They require technique and passion. It’s not about just reading a recipe; it’s about connecting with your food while you’re cooking.” 

Pavlides loves how a cook’s personality can shine through foundational recipes. She reminded me that chefs all over the world put their own spin on these classics, showcasing their unique palate and point-of-view. But when it comes to cacio e pepe, she recommends starting “without a twist, because you need to know how to make it first. Once you master the 101 version, then you can add a twist.”

A spot-on bowl of cacio e pepe requires perfectly cooked pasta, luxuriously creamy sauce, and a balance of pepper that delivers a zing without overwhelming the dish. A pro tip from Pavlides: “Pay attention to the water to pasta ratio.” Since the recipe includes pasta water to emulsify and create a velvety consistency, “you’re looking for the maximum amount of starch,” Pavlides explains. “The water is part of the recipe.”

“Don’t just dump it in the pan,” Pavlides advises. “Pay attention to the little nuances.” How does it smell and feel in the pan? And never forget to taste.

“When you make it and you fail, you feel the frustration,” says Pavlides. “When you make it and succeed, you feel like a rockstar. You’ve created something beautiful. You feel empowered. That feeling and confidence will transfer to the rest of your day.” 

Recipe: Cacio e Pepe


  • 2 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano

  • ½ pound spaghetti

  • ½ tablespoon black peppercorns, divided (see tip below)


  1. Add the Pecorino Romano into a medium bowl.

  2. Bring 5 to 6 cups salted water to a rolling boil in a 6-quart pot over high heat. Add the spaghetti and cook al dente, according to package directions.

  3. After halfway through cooking, take 1 ladle of hot salted pasta water and pour into the bowl with the cheese, stirring with a rubber spatula, making a paste (it should look like  mashed potatoes). Set aside.

  4. In a 12-inch sloped sided fry pan over low heat, add the peppercorns and lightly toast until warm and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes, swirling the pan. Add 1 to 2 ladles of the salted water into the pan with the pepper. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a steady bubble.

  5. Immediately add the pasta to the pan while keeping the remaining pasta water in the pot. Continue cooking the pasta while gently but vigorously stirring it and swirling the pan. Drizzle in a little pasta water at a time while cooking, as needed.

  6. The pasta will slowly continue to release its starch while the water reduces, creating a thickened opaque consistency. Once the water is reduced by 3/4 of the way, 2 to 3 minutes, remove from the heat.

  7. Add the Pecorino Romano paste into the pan and constantly stir the pasta and swirl the pan until the cheese is fully melted and creamy, about 1 minute.

  8. Divide the pasta among 2 to 3 pasta bowls, along with the creamy, peppered sauce from the pan.

  9. Garnish with more freshly grated Pecorino Romano and the reserved black pepper, because you’re a feisty rock star chef.

Tip: Roughly crack all the peppercorns in a mortar and pestle, making some shattered and some finely ground. Set aside ½ teaspoon to garnish.

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Shereen Pavlides