This classic pasta alla gricia recipe is easy to make with 3 main ingredients and always tastes so decadent and flavorful.
- 8 ounces guanciale*
- fine sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- 12 ounces uncooked pasta (I used mezzi rigatoni)
- 2 ounces finely-grated Pecorino Romano
- Cut the guanciale. Slice the guanciale into ¼-inch-thick slices. Then cut each slice into roughly ½ x 1-inch pieces. (It can help to freeze the guanciale for 10 minutes beforehand to make it easier to cut.)
- Cook the guanciale. Heat a large sauté pan (preferably nonstick) over medium-low heat. Add the guanciale to the pan and cook, stirring and flipping occasionally, until the guanciale is golden brown and crispy and the fat has rendered, about 10 minutes. (Keep a close eye on the guanciale so that it does not burn.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer the guanciale to a separate plate. Pour the remaining fat into a heatproof measuring cup. Measure out ¼ cup and return it to the pan and discard the rest.
- Bloom the black pepper. Add 1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper to the pan to the hot grease, then turn off the heat.
- Boil the pasta. Meanwhile, fill a large stockpot about half full of water (roughly 2 quarts) and bring it to a boil. Since the guanciale and cheese are so salty, there’s no need to generously salt the pasta water, so just stir in 1 tablespoon salt. Add the pasta and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Emulsify the sauce. Meanwhile, once the pasta reaches the 6-minute point, carefully scoop up 1 1/2 cups of the starchy pasta water and transfer it to the sauté pan with the bacon grease. Turn the heat on the sauté pan to high to quickly bring the mixture to a boil, and gently stir to help the water emulsify with the grease as the sauce begins to reduce.
- Finish cooking the pasta. Once the pasta reaches the 8-minute mark, use a spider strainer or tongs to immediately transfer the pasta to the sauté pan with the sauce. Gently toss the pasta continuously in the sauce for 3-5 minutes until the sauce has reduced and emulsified and the pasta is al dente, adding in an extra ¼ cup of the remaining starchy pasta water as needed anytime the sauce seems too dry.
- Finish the pasta. Turn off the heat. Stir in the guanciale and half of the cheese and toss gently to combine. Stir in the remaining cheese and toss gently until the cheese has melted and the sauce is glossy, adding in an extra few tablespoons of the remaining starchy pasta water if needed to thin out the sauce.
- Serve. Serve immediately, garnished with an extra sprinkle of cheese and a twist of black pepper.
Guanciale: See notes above about pancetta or bacon substitution options.
Source: Recipe adapted from Serious Eats.