Best Italian Pasta alla Gricia: bring a little breath of Rome’s air into your kitchen

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Pasta alla Gricia is a true burst of flavor. It is as rich as the city it comes from: Rome!

Very easy and fast, you may prepare it yourself wherever you are- simple ingredients, incredibly toothsome taste.  You must try it!

“Gricia”’s origins are not still very clear; according to the legend it might have been born in the village of Amatrice, on the border between Abruzzo and Lazio, a long time ago.

When they looked after the animals in the pastures, or worked in the fields shepherds and farmers used to bring lard, dry pasta, ripe Percorino cheese with them to eat during the long hard working hours. Hence, we may understand pretty easily that Gricia is a very rich dish.

Do you know Amatriciana? Have you ever tasted it?

Both Amaticiana and Gricia want guanciale (cured pork jowl) and Pecorino Romano cheese. Tomato puree makes the difference: that’s why Gricia is also known as “White Amatriciana”, its name means “gray”,

I had this dish last year when I went to Rome to attend a few food photography classes. In the evening, my husband Enrico, who had come with me, and I went to a very nice restaurant: we ordered icon food from Rome’s culinary tradition. My Grigia was very peppery, the cook had very generously sprinkled it with ground pepper- but I managed to eat it all. Believe me, it was worth  the effort.

Which pasta best fits Pasta alla gricia?

You may pair this tasty sauce with both long shape pasta, bucatini or tonnarelli, or short one such as rigatoni. I am used to having dry pasta, number 12 spaghetti, linguine or bucatini which the sauce perfectly cling to.

Where can you find guanciale?

Guanciale comes from the jowls and the neck of a, at least, 9 month old pork. It is seasoned and let it mature for over three months; the superficial layer dries in a tasty crispy thin crust. It is ricer in calories, spicer and more compact than “pancetta”.

You may buy it at the supermarket, or at the butcher’s. If you can’t find it, unsmoked pancetta, or bacon fit as well: a toothsome variation.

In case guanciale is not peppery enough, you have to add black ground pepper in the pasta cooking water as it must be one of the main tastes of the recipe. Cook guanciale in a hot pan over medium-low heat, stir with a wooden spoon not to burn it. It must cook slowly without any oil to develop all its flavor, and release its own fat to toss pasta with.

Essential hints for a successful recipe

  • Buy only organic, high-quality, possibly Italian products, most of all the Pecorino (I know, it is expensive, but it is worth, the price)
  • Opt for peppery guanciale because it is far tastier;
  • Be careful when you cook guanciale, it must be crispy, not burnt;
  • The recipe doesn’t want any extra oil, or cream: the spicy fat is provided by the guanciale itself;
  • Save a little cooking water to make pasta sauce creamy and silky;
  • Finely grate Pecorino to avoid any clumps. Thermal shock may spoil the sauce, so let the cooking water cool down a little and make sure Pecorino is completely melted.
  • Two methods guarantee a creamy and silky sauce. Put Pecorino cheese into a cold pan, add pasta when it is done and then add some cooking water, a twist of black pepper and the guanciale. Stir energetically with a wooden spoon to avoid any clumps. You may also blend Pecorino, very little oil, ground pepper and a scoop of cooking water with a hand mixer. Pour the cream onto pasta and toss until it is evenly coated. Add the guanciale and more pepper.

Best Italian Pasta alla Gricia

This dish, which comes from the peasants’ culinary tradition of Central Italy, is made of a few ingredients: easy to prepare, unforgettable taste. Combine it with some fresh green salad dressed with extra virgin olive oil for a fast and balanced lunch. Believe me, very few steps and Gricia is ready: a kids’ play! You will surprise your family and friends with this Italian delicacy! 
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Italian gricia spaghetti, la gricia, pasta alla gricia
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 380 gr number 12 spaghetti
  • 350 gr guanciale
  • 300 gr Pecorino Romano cheese
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  • Cook pasta in plenty of salted boiling water; 
  • First cut the guanciale into 50g slices then, dice them into 1,5cm wide and 3cm long pieces; 
  • In a non-stick or aluminum pan, brown the guanciale dices over high heat: the fat will melt to coat pasta evenly and the lean part will get crispy (it will take a few minutes); 
  • Set the guanciale aside and leave the fat in the pan; cover it with oil absorbing cooking paper (without some of its fat, guanciale will gets crispy and tastier); 
  • Cook the fat in the pan over medium-high heat and add a scoop of pasta cooking water;
  • Simmer for a few seconds;
  • Add some ground pepper and remove from the heat; 
  • Two minutes earlier than the cooking time stated on the package instructions, drain pasta very al dente with a mesh skimmer directly into the pan with the guanciale fat; reserve a few scoops of cooking water (as it is very rich in starch, it makes pasta creamier and smoother); 
  • Toss pasta with its sauce;
  • Add a scoop of cooking water and sauté over high heat; add the guanciale dices and half go the grated Pecorino a little at a time;
  • Sprinkle with ground pepper, and add another scoop of water; 
  • Add the remaining Pecorino, save a little to garnish;  toss well until pasta is evenly coated. Don’t worry if it doesn’t melt instantly, stir energetically with a wooden spoon: the heat of the pan, and the starch of the water will turn the pecorino into a smooth toothsome sauce. 
  • Garnish with Pecorino and more pepper; serve very hot. 

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