Guanciale is the culinary essence of Rome.
Guanciale is a telling name, in fact the word itself refers to the part of pork used to make it – “guancia” in Italian means cheek, and it is indeed the cut of meat chosen for this delicious cured meat.
When it comes to culinary traditions there are some that identify specifically with a region more than the others. And Guanciale is without any doubt quintessentially Roman. People of rome have been making guanciale or centuries and have been cooking with it for as long.
How it is used
You don’t really eat raw guanciale – it is a highly savuory piece of white pig fat better used for cooking. You melt it down in a saucepan and use the fat to fry further ingredients who will become infused with this amazing taste. It is not part of any diet I’ve come across, but even a small quantity will get you the taste, so it’s worth trying even if you are dieting.
We’ve picked three pasta dishes which we think fully represent and embrace the tasty, fatty flavours of guanciale. First up, a classic of our restaurant and a dish that makes everyone happy:
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
First sauté the guanciale over medium heat until it starts turning brown. Set aside but keep warm.
Bring the water to a boil, add salt, then add the pasta and cook al dente. While the pasta is cooking, break the eggs add the pecorino cheese and a generous dose of pepper. Whisk until smooth.
it’s now time to drain the pasta (save a bit of cooking water!) and add it to the same pan where you cooked the guanciale, over low heat. Give it a good mixing. Then pour the egg mixture into the pasta. Quickly mix it with two spoons, the egg must not cook for too long, or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs in your pasta. Ideally the heat of the pasta will cook the egg just enough. If it looks a bit dry add the water you set aside, that will help with the creaminess. Add a bit more cheese and pepper to taste and enjoy!
Pasta all’Amatriciana takes its name from Amatrice, a town situated in northern Lazio, in central Italy.
This simple but luscious sauce is made only with few ingredients but the result is incredible.
120g guanciale (pancetta is allowed too)
400g chopped fresh and ripe tomatoes (if tinned remove part of the juice)
100g pecorino romano
A dash of white wine (if you like it)
A sprinkle of dried red chilli
The type of pasta that goes best with this sauce is a pasta that can absorbe every single drop of the deliciousness of the sauce, so you will need something thick and porous. the ideal combination is with bucatini, similar to spaghetti but thicker and with a hole running through each strand of pasta. That will capture all the sauce and release extra deliciousness at every mouthful!
How to proceed. So start by cutting the guanciale in strands, and roughly chop the tomatoes and grate the pecorino. While the pasta boils, quickly fry the guanciale on a frying pan in order to make it crispy and release all the juicy fats. Add a splash of wine if you like and let evaporate, then add the tomatoes and the chilli to the guanciale and let it cook for a few minutes until slightly thickened.
When the sauce is ready, add the cooked bucatini to it, saving a bit of the cooking water to add if the sauce looks a bit stiff. And don’t forget to add a generous amount of Pecorino Romano on top before serving!
Pasta Fave e Guanciale
This is a rustic and hearty dish, typical of those small local restaurants, usually found in tiny villages castled on the hills of central Italian regions such as Lazio, Tuscany, Abruzzo, Umbria. It technically has no sauce, and it is only made with Guanciale, broad beans, and a lot of pecorino romano.
The process is very easy. Dice the guanciale and fry it in a pan until crispy. Meanwhile boil the pasta, we suggest using mezze maniche, a short pasta tubes, the right size to grab the right amount of beans and guanciale in each mouthful. Once ready, add the pasta in the pan with guanciale, the broad beans -cooked and peeled – mantle together while adding a snowfall of pecorino.
And enjoy the greatness of this humble dish.