basics/easy/mains/recipes/that noodle life

5-Ingredient Pasta alla Gricia Recipe

Posted June 22, 2018 by Stephanie

6-Ingredient Pasta alla Gricia Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

6-Ingredient Pasta alla Gricia Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

6-Ingredient Pasta alla Gricia Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

6-Ingredient Pasta alla Gricia Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

I love, no, adore, pasta with the same fervor that cats have for catnip. Give me noodles any day, any time, and I’ll forever be your friend. Even better than just pasta is great pasta that you can make at home, easy as pie – heck, easier than pie because pie isn’t really all that easy, am I right?

Anyway, my new pasta love is alla gricia. Think: crispy bits of pork, cheese, and pepper all combined into a gloriously glossy sauce that clings perfectly to each strand of tender yet toothsome pasta. I hadn’t even heard of it until last year, which seems crazy to me. Somehow my whole life passed by without me having alla gricia?! Mike kept talking about how great it was and how magical it was to cook. Finally, just yesterday we went to the store to buy some guanciale so I could make it.

Of course, the store didn’t have guanciale so we bought pancetta, which is essentially the same as guanicale, but pork belly instead of pork jowl. I’m sure some Italians will tell me is absolutely horribly wrong in this dish, but it tasted so good that I don’t care if it’s wrong because it’s so, so right.

You know what else is right? Roman-style pasta. There are four classic Roman pastas: Gricia, and its three BFFs Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe, Amatriciana. I definitely see the ties between carbonara, cacio e peppe, and alla gricia – they all have nutty, salty, tangy Pecorino Romano and black pepper – but I’m not sure where amatriciana fits it. It’s literally the red-headed stepchild, what with its spicy tomato sauce and all. I kid, I kid, amatriciana has pecorino and black pepper too.

Anyway, the classics are classic for a reason and if you master this alla gricia, I’m pretty sure you can rule the pasta world – or at least make your way into someone’s heart. It’s super simple too, way more simple than carbonara because there’s no fussing with eggs.

Here it is, in 6 simple steps:

  1. Gather your ingredients. That means, weigh out your pasta, chop your guanciale (or pancetta, if you’re like me and can’t find guanciale), grate and measure the Pecorino, and crack/grind the black pepper.
  2. Put a pot of water on to boil. You can salt it if you like, but both Pecorino and guanciale are quite salty so if you don’t salt it, you’ll have more control of your pasta.
  3. While the water is coming to a boil, heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in a large, wide sauté pan. A saute pan with high straight sides, as opposed to a skillet with sloping flared sides, is your friend here. Add the guanciale and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until the fat renders out and the pieces of guanciale are brown and crispy. Scoop out the brown crispy bits of guanciale with a slotted spoon, leaving the rendered fat in the pan.
  4. Meanwhile, while the guanciale is cooking, cook your pasta of choice – classic is rigatoni – in a large pot of water, stirring as needed, until it is cooked halfway, just divide the cooking time on the package in half.
  5. Use a measuring cup to carefully scoop out 3/4 cups of the pasta water and add it to the pan with the fat. Bring the fat and pasta water to a gentle boil, whisking and swirling to emulsify the fat and starchy water. Use a pair of tongs or a slotted spoon (no need to drain, you want the pasta to be drippy and you want to keep the extra pasta water in case you need it) to transfer the pasta to the pan with the fat and water and cook until the pasta is al dente and the water in the pan is reduced down into a slightly thick and glossy sauce, about 5-7 minutes.
  6. Add the crispy guanciale, two-thirds of the Pecorino, and the pepper. Toss everything to combine and melt the cheese. If you need to thin out the sauce or help the cheese melt a bit, add a bit more pasta water. Taste, season if needed, plate it up with the extra cheese and live #thatnoodlelife.

5-Ingredient Pasta alla Gricia Recipe
serves 2


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 ounces guanciale or pancetta, cut into ¾-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces pasta of choice
  • 2 teaspoons freshly cracked coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3 ounces Pecorino Romano, finely grated on the small holes of a box grater, about 3 cups

via Bon Appetit

Over medium-low, heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Add the guanciale (we used ham), stirring, until the fat renders out and the pieces become brown and crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pieces to a small bowl, leaving the rendered fat in the pan.

Meanwhile, while the guanciale is cooking, cook your pasta of choice in a large pot of boiling water, stirring occasionally, until pasta is about halfway cooked, not yet al dente. Save 1.5 cups the pasta water and then drain the pasta.

Add 3/4 cups pasta water to the pan with the fat and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, swirling often to emulsify the pasta water and rendered fat, about 1 minute. Add the pasta to the pan and cook until pasta is cooked al dente and the sauce becomes thick and glossy, about 5-7 minutes.

Turn the heat up to medium-high and add back in the crispy guanciale, pepper, and two-thirds of the grated Pecorino. Toss well to melt the cheese and combine. Enjoy immediately topped off with the remaining Pecorino.

8 Comments

  1. I so wouldn’t mind ruling the pasta world, lol. Adding that to my goals list! This looks so amazing — it’s 10 am and if there was a plate it front of me, I would absolutely call it brunch! Can’t wait to try!

  2. Marianella Reed says:

    Do you use cured or uncurled guanciale?

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi marianella,
      it’s cured!

  3. Pierluigi Sacchetti says:

    The reason why you must use Guanciale instead of pancetta is very simple….Guanciale is similar to lardo when is cured becomes sweet, candy like sweet I am talking about , the pancetta stays salty …..so saltiness of pecorino sweetness of Guanciale and pepper here you are delicious…….

  4. Karly says:

    I can’t believe this is so easy and looks amazing! Gotta try this!

  5. Margaux says:

    Look delicious, I must do it !

  6. Jo says:

    Always salt pasta water. Always

  7. cynthia says:

    Ohhhhh this looks like everything I never knew I wanted!!

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