Pasta alla Gricia

Guanciale, better than bacon

Like most, we are big fans of bacon and pasta, respectively and combined. Two of our favorite dishes come from Cal Peternell’s Twelve Recipes. His carbonara and amatriciana recipes are always smashing successes. Admittedly, we typically opt for regular old grocery store bacon instead of pancetta or the even more authentic option of guanciale. Feeling a bit adventurous, but also wanting to keep it simple for our Saturday night dinner, we decided to try Mark Bittman’s version of a Roman classic, pasta alla Gricia. Marky B stresses the importance of using guanciale, so we finally committed, trekking into Manhattan to buy a nice hunk of pig jowl at Eataly (we’ll visit our favorite butcher Los Paisano’s in Cobble Hill next time). The guanciale elevated this pasta from a simple weekday dinner to a delicious Saturday night feast. And now we feel like slightly more legit gourmands.


  • 1/2 pound guanciale (cured pig jowl), cut into 1/4 inch pieces*
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper + more to taste
  • 3/4 pound spaghetti or other long pasta
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino romano or parmesan


  1. Cook the guanciale in a large skillet over medium heat until deeply golden. You may need to adjust the heat to not cook too quickly. You want the fat to render without burning the meat. The meaty parts should be brown and the fatty parts should be cooked but still slightly transparent. This should take 10-15 minutes. When done, add the black pepper and turn off heat.
  2. While cooking the guanciale, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When the water reaches a boil, add the the pasta. Cook till al dente and drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups of pasta water.
  3. You want the pasta to still be wet and hot, so while it is cooking add 3/4 cup of the pasta water to the cooled guanciale. Turn heat to high and reduce liquid by half.
  4. Once reduced, transfer pasta to the skillet. Mix vigorously and stir in more pasta water if necessary to create a creamy sauce. Add the cheese and extra cracked pepper.

Garnish with additional cheese! Enjoy with a glass of red wine.

Details: Serves 4

*Note 1: If you can’t find gaunciale, pancetta or bacon will also work. But guanciale is a game changer in this recipe!!


2 thoughts on “Pasta alla Gricia

  1. Pingback: Pasta alla Norma – Pig n' Pie

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