I first enjoyed a bowl of this simple pasta in Rome and after my first bite I fell in love with this simple yet tasty dish. This pasta includes just a few ingrediients……guanciale, black pepper, and pecorino cheese. Guanciale is an unsmoked Italian bacon prepared with pig’s jowl or cheeks. Its name is derived from guancia, the Italian word for cheek.
Guanciale is rubbed with salt, ground black pepper and cured for three weeks. Its unique flavor is stronger than other pork products, such as pancetta, but its texture is more delicate, and in fact when cooked much of it dissolves into the dish. Guanciale is traditionally used in dishes like pasta all’amatriciana, pasta alla gricia, and spaghetti alla carbonara. It is most commonly found in Central Italy, particularly Umbria and Lazio.
Guanciale can be found in some Italian import or specialty shops outside of Italy, but if you are unable to find it, unsmoked pancetta is the next best substitute. Since this dish is so simple, use the best quality of Pecorino Romano cheese you can find.
Italian Guanciale, Or Cured Pork Cheeks
Deborah Mele 2011
- 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 5 oz Guanciale, Diced (or Substitute With Unsmoked Pancetta)
- 3 Tablespoons Cracked Black Pepper
- 1 lb (450 gr) Pasta (Bucatini or Spaghetti Work Best)
- 1/4 Cup Pecorino Romano Cheese, Freshly Grated
- Place a large pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.
- In a separate small pot heat the olive oil and once hot add the diced guanciale.
- Cook until it has turned light brown.
- Cook the pasta until it is "al dente".
- Drain, reserving a small cup of pasta water.
- Toss the pasta with the guanciale olive oil mixture, grated cheese, and the cracked pepper.
- Mix well, using some of the pasta water if the pasta seems a little dry.
- Serve piping hot.