Indulge in the mouth-watering flavours of Italy with the traditional pasta alla gricia recipe, featuring savory guanciale and tangy Pecorino Romano cheese. Perfect for a comforting dinner at home.
Pasta alla Gricia
By: Silvana Lanzetta
Pasta alla gricia is a delicious Italian dish, and it’s an ancient way of preparing pasta before tomatoes became the star of Italian cuisine. This dish was born in the Apennine region north of Rome and created by local shepherds who didn’t have much to feed themselves with, only sheep’s cheese and pork cheeks. But with those simple ingredients, they managed to create a masterpiece.
About 20 years ago, I stumbled upon this amazing recipe by pure chance! At the time, it was relatively unknown outside of Rome, but it immediately won me over and has been one of my favourite ever since!
- 400 g rigatoni, spaghetti, bucatini, or your favourite pasta
- 200 g guanciale, diced’ If you really can’t find it, then use unsmoked pancetta
- 150 g grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
The beauty of pasta alla gricia is in its simplicity. You might think that creating an amazing Italian dish requires a lot of ingredients and herbs, but that’s not the case with this one.
The 4 rules for the perfect pasta alla gricia
The first secret to a perfect pasta alla gricia is in choosing your ingredients carefully, especially the meat. The meat has to be guanciale, a type of pork cheek with a delicate and particular flavor that cannot be substituted for the salty bacon. Nowadays, you can find guanciale and Pecorino Romano cheese easily outside of Italy.
The second secret, and the most important one, is the creaming process, which we call “mantecatura.” This process is crucial to make the sauce creamy at the right point.
The third rule is to sauté the guanciale in a non-stick pan for 10 minutes over medium-low heat, without adding oil, and making sure it doesn’t burn until the fat has melted, and the lean part has become crunchy.
Finally, you need to drain the pasta al dente and finish cooking it in the pan. Then, away from the heat, add the cheese and a little more cooking water.
It can be matched with any pasta shape
But which pasta shape should you use for gricia? There’s some flexibility in this aspect. You can use both long pasta, such as spaghetti, bucatini, and tagliatelle, and short pasta, such as rigatoni.
The birth of pasta alla gricia has many theories, but for me, it’s the basis of all the Roman pasta recipes. Many believe it was the first pasta used by shepherds who, moving with their flock, brought with them pasta, bacon, pecorino, and pepper. All the other Roman pastas such as Amatriciana, Cacio e Pepe, and Carbonara are nothing more than variations of gricia,
So, why not try making pasta alla gricia at home? You’ll be transported back in time to the origins of Italian cuisine, and your taste buds will thank you for it.
Pasta alla gricia i delicious, but also a very rich dish, quite high in fats. Make it every now and then as a delicious treat for you and your family!
- Proteins 8% 8%
- Carbs 52% 52%
- Fats 40% 40%
Make Pasta alla Gricia
Step by Step Instructions
Alright, let’s get started on this pasta alla gricia! First things first, grab a large pot and fill it with water. Don’t forget to add the salt, but don’t go overboard as the sauce is already super savoury. Once the salt has melted, toss in your pasta of choice and let it boil on high heat for about 8 minutes – but remember to keep it slightly undercooked, we don’t want mushy pasta!
While the pasta is cooking, let’s give some love to our star ingredient: guanciale. Cut it up into small dice and add it to a non-stick pan on medium heat. You won’t need any oil as the guanciale will cook in its own delicious fat. Cook it until it has formed a light golden crust.
Now, let’s drain the pasta, but don’t forget to reserve one cup of that cooking water. We’ll need it later! Add the pasta to the pan with the guanciale and pour in half of the reserved water. Season with a generous amount of pepper, and sauté it all together for a couple of minutes until the water has halved.
Next up, remove from the heat, add in the grated Pecorino cheese, and give it all a good stir. Adda little more cooking water if not creamy enough. Resist the temptation to add any salt, as the cheese and meat are already packing a punch in the salt department.
Once your pasta is perfectly cooked and coated in that creamy sauce, remove it from the heat and serve it up hot. I recommend topping it off with an extra sprinkle of grated Pecorino cheese and freshly ground black pepper, and maybe even pairing it with a bottle of Chianti Classico DOCG. Buon Appetito!
I suggest eating your delicious pasta alla gricia right away for the best taste. You can store any leftover in the fridge for up to one day.
Just a heads up, freezing pasta alla gricia is not recommended.
When cooking your guanciale, I recommend using a hot pan over medium heat. Make sure to check it occasionally to avoid burning. If your guanciale isn’t already peppered on the outside, you can add some grated black pepper to taste while cooking. This will give your dish an extra kick of flavour!