Pasta alla Gricia

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This pasta alla gricia recipe packs a real flavour punch thanks to the rich guanciale and Pecorino Romano. This dish makes use of the pasta cooking water, emulsifying with the gorgeous guanciale fat to create a rich and decidedly porky sauce.

First published in 2017

Pasta alla gricia is one of Lazio's most iconic pasta dishes, comprised of guanciale (cured pork jowl), Pecorino Romano, a twist of black pepper and of course pasta, bound together with a little pasta water for a rich, distinctly porky sauce. It's the foundation of other much-loved Lazian pasta dishes – carbonara has added egg, and Amatriciana brings tomatoes into the mix – but gricia certainly doesn't suffer from its use of minimal ingredients. This simplicity leaves more room for the heady richness of guanciale to shine through, contrasting beautifully with the sharp bite of Pecorino Romano and fierce black pepper.

As the dish relies on so few ingredients, it’s important that you use the best you can find – guanciale has a stronger flavour than other cured pork products but can be difficult to find outside Italy, so if you can’t get hold of it a good quality pancetta can be used instead. Spaghetti and rigatoni are the most common pasta choices for the dish choices, but similar shapes like penne or linguine work well too.




Pasta alla gricia

  • 400g of rigatoni pasta
  • 300g of guanciale, or good quality pancetta, cubed
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 110g of Pecorino Romano, freshly grated
  • freshly ground black pepper


Cook the pasta in a pan of heavily salted boiling water for 8–10 minutes, or as per packet instructions
Meanwhile, slowly heat the cubed guanciale with a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium-low heat. It is a fatty cut of meat, so you want to render the fat right down without colouring the meat too much. It’s this delicious fat which will coat the pasta, giving the dish its porky depth of flavour
Once the fat has rendered, turn down the heat and add a splash of pasta water to keep the meat nice and soft
When the pasta is cooked al dente, remove from the heat and drain, ensuring to reserve some of the pasta water
Leave the pasta in the colander for 30 seconds to dry off a little – this way you are completely in control of how much pasta water you will add to create the sauce
Add the pasta to the pan and turn up the heat. Toss the pan or use tongs to coat the pasta completely in the rendered fat. Now mix in a splash or two of the reserved pasta water to give it a glossy shine. The starch from the pasta water will bind with the fat to produce a rich sauce
Remove from the heat, add a few grinds of black pepper and the grated Pecorino Romano. Toss again to evenly coat and serve straight away

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