“Bucatini alla Gricia” recipe
Bucatini with Guanciale

    • Prep Time
    • Minutes
    • Cook Time
    • Minutes
    • Difficulty Level

Total Cost: UK/£ 5,06*

Cost/portion: UK/£ 1,69*

When in 1540 the Spanish conquistador Hermán Cortés brought tomatoes to Europe from the New World, Italian shepherds from today’s Lazio – the region around Rome –  already used to cook this recipe. There are a few different theories about its origins: some say it got its name from a swiss community that moved to Rome from the then-called “Canton of Grigioni”. I’m not a historian, but I don’t trust that story… I agree with those who say that it has been born in a tiny village called Grisciano, which is only a few kilometers away from Amatrice, the homeland of “Pasta a l’Amatriciana” or “Pasta a la Matriciana” another pillar of Italian pasta cooking tradition.

“La Gricia” is a very humble dish, it has just those two main ingredients: pecorino romano cheese and guanciale. Pecorino is a very tasty sheep cheese, stronger than parmesan cheese. Guanciale is quite easily mistaken for pancetta, but while the latter comes from the belly of the pork, guanciale comes from the cheeks and the higher part of the pork’s neck. I believe that it is translated into English as “cheek lard”. Guanciale tastes much more delicate than pancetta and the fat itself has a different consistency than pancetta’s fat. Strict food experts solemnly forbid making Gricia, Amatriciana and Carbonara with anything else but guanciale, but it has become quite common also in Italy to substitute it with pancetta without making a big deal about it.

So I suggest that if you don’t have access to guanciale, not even through the internet, you simply switch to a normal mild bacon, and this will bring you close enough to the original taste of “Pasta a la Gricia”. Fat is essential, so do not cut it off.

Finally, let me mention again Aldo Fabrizi and his “La pastasciutta”, where he dedicates one of his witty poems to “[…]’na cosetta cicia” – a yummy little thing – “la Gricia”.

Utensils you will need

for the sauce

One chopping board

One paring knife

One sharp chef knife

One zester

One small plate

One pestle and mortar

One large frying pan

for the pasta

One 6-8lt saucepan

One ladle

One large strainer or a pasta server

Two wooden spoons or silicon spatulas (if necessary)

Note for the users: please click on the label “HOW TO” to watch the slide-show of each cooking step.

* Please note that both total cost and cost per portion are approximate and that can vary according to seasons and to different conditions.

Recipe Rating

  • (1 Rating)

Ingredients

  • for the sauce

  • Guanciale* (possibly with its rind) - 180gr

  • Pecorino Romano Cheese* - 80gr

  • Black pepper corns - 3gr or to taste (but be generous and, please, do not use ready made black pepper powder)

  • Extra virgin olive oil - 25gr

  • Cooking water - about 20ml or 25ml

  • *Both “guanciale” and “pecorino romano” cheese are essential ingredients for this recipe. “Pecorino romano” is very easily available by now in supermarkets. Guanciale, instead, is a delicacy and it is sold in very peculiar shops or online. So if you really can’t find it, you might as well use a common bacon. Make sure it’s not smoked otherwise the taste would be completely altered and way too different from the original.
  • for the pasta

  • Water - 5lt

  • Salt - 40gr

  • Bucatini - 240gr

Instructions

  • 1.
    Boiling the water and crushing the black pepper

    • Water - 5lt
    • Black pepper corns - 3gr or to taste

      Put the saucepan with the water on high heat and let it come to the boil.
      Finely crush the black pepper corns in the mortar. Set aside.
      The water will take from 18 to 20 minutes to get to a stable boiling.

      Note about salt and water for pasta

      If you think you might forget to salt water before adding pasta, you can salt water right after putting it on heat. This can become a safe routine, but the commonly unknown result of this is that it will require a longer time to come to the boiling temperature of 100ºC. It would be better instead to wait for the boiling to start and then carefully add the salt. The addiction of salt at this stage causes a sudden increase of the temperature of the solution for a couple of seconds during which the water increases the bubbling and risks to pour out if the pan’s sides are not sufficiently high.

      So the right pan should be taller than its diameter and capacious enough to contain a good amount of water.

      The minimum ratio between water and pasta is 1lt every 100gr. Although, for small amount of pasta it’s better to use a fairly large and deep pan which will keep the water to temperature also after dropping the pasta in. So that’s why I prefer to use 5lt of water even just to cook a single portion of pasta.

      Another important detail of which to take care, is the right quantity of salt to add to the water. It depends on the quantity of salt the condiment for pasta is going to contain and the cooking time that pasta requires; not only on your personal taste.

      A normal dose of salt is 11-12gr per litre of water and it can be increased to a maximum of 14-15gr for those who like their food to be particularly savoury. When using ingredients which are already salty themselves, like bacon or ham, the dose can be lowered to a minimum of 9-10gr per litre of water, as well as when you know that you will bind pasta with a lot of its own cooking water.

      Keep also in mind that longer cooking time requires smaller doses of salt whereas quicker cooking will need a larger dose.

  • 2.
    Frying the rind, putting the pasta to boil and grating the cheese

    • Water- 5lt (boiling)
    • Salt - 40gr
    • Bucatini - 240gr
    • Guanciale rind (if present)
    • Extra virgin olive oil - 25gr
    • Pecorino Romano Cheese - 80gr

      Guanciale should have been sold to you with its rind: it protects the meats from drying out and preserves the flavours. Put the frying pan on a high heat, add the olive oil and the rind (step 2 - pic. A), which will start curling and browning along the edges, while the lard cells will break and sweat their fat out. This will mix with the olive oil and change colour gaining more and more heat and becoming almost transparent (step 2 - pic. B). Finely grate into a small plate the pecorino cheese and set aside.
      As soon as water starts boiling, add the 40gr of salt and after the boiling has settled again, add the pasta in (step 2 - pic. C). Stir frequently for the first few minutes to avoid the pasta sticking to the bottom or to each other.
      Bucatini will take from 8 to 10 minutes to cook, but you will need to strain them 1 or 2 minutes earlier: you will keep a couple of ladles of the cooking water to add it to the pasta while binding it with the guanciale in the frying pan. Since bucatini are quite thick, I suggest to go as close as possible to the cooking point.

  • 3.
    Slicing and frying the guanciale

    • Guanciale (possibly with its rind) - 180gr
    • Ground black pepper - a pinc
    • The fats and rind in the frying pan

      Finely slice the guanciale sideways, so that each slice will equally have both fat and meat (step 3 - pic. A). Two minutes before staining the pasta, add it to the frying pan with the rind (step 3 - pic. B). Let it fry and get crispy while the fat will become whitish and almost transparent. Season it with a pinch of black pepper (step 3 - pic. C).

  • 4.
    Straining the pasta

      Eight or nine minutes have past since you dropped the bucatini into the water. They will not be ready yet and if you lift one strand with a fork, you will see that it does not hang vertically as if it was perfectly cooked "al dente”.
      Collect about 20ml or 25ml of cooking water with a ladle and put aside in a small receptacle.
      Drain the pasta thoroughly with a strainer. Do not let it dry completely: the water that coasts the bucatini will protect them form the thermic shock they will go through when tossing on the frying pan. As an alternative, you can use a pasta server and move the pasta directly from the saucepan to the frying pan (step 4).

      Note about the correct cooking point "al dente”

      “Al dente” literally means “to the tooth”. It indicates the perfect consistency that pasta, or any other food, should have at the end of the cooking process: not too soft and not too hard at chewing. Pasta cooked “al dente” maintains a harder consistency at the centre of the dough sheet which gives the diners a pleasant feeling of “biting” rather than “mushing” something under their teeth..

  • 5.
    Binding pasta and sauce

    • Drained bucatini
    • Cooking water - about 20ml or 25ml
    • The grated Pecorino Romano cheese
    • Ground black pepper - about 3gr or to taste
    • The frying pan with the sauce

      Bring the heat under the frying pan to a medium-high level; then immediately add all bucatini. Stir and toss quickly with the two spoons then add one ladle of cooking water and keep tossing and stirring frequently (step 5 - pic. A).
      The fat and the water will reduce quickly cooking the past, the starch of which will thicken the sauce. Add another ladle if you think that the pasta needs to cook  a little longer.
      If not, take the pan off the heat.
      Add the black pepper and two thirds of the pecorino cheese, toss and stir again (step 5 - pic. B).
      Please note that this dish is intended to be dryer than other pasta dishes and it must have quite a coarse-grained texture. This is the reason why the binding process is different than usual.
      Sprinkle the remaining pecorino cheese on top and serve immediately.

      Note about binding pasta

      As well as for rice, almost all recipes require pasta to be bound together with its sauce and tossed over heat. This allows the sauce to grab on the surface of pasta, wether it is smooth or lined or copper drawn, so that every forkful will have its perfect balance of flavours and textures. Otherwise, sauce would slip away while eating and you would end up with a good quantity of the sauce still on the bottom of the bowl.
      Another very good idea, even if not allowed by etiquette, is to eat pasta, any kind of pasta, with some nice fresh crusty bread. Bread’s starchy flavour enhances both flavours of sauce and pasta dough itself.

Instructions

  • 1.
    Boiling the water and crushing the black pepper

    • Water - 5lt
    • Black pepper corns - 3gr or to taste

      Put the saucepan with the water on high heat and let it come to the boil.
      Finely crush the black pepper corns in the mortar. Set aside.
      The water will take from 18 to 20 minutes to get to a stable boiling.

      Note about salt and water for pasta

      If you think you might forget to salt water before adding pasta, you can salt water right after putting it on heat. This can become a safe routine, but the commonly unknown result of this is that it will require a longer time to come to the boiling temperature of 100ºC. It would be better instead to wait for the boiling to start and then carefully add the salt. The addiction of salt at this stage causes a sudden increase of the temperature of the solution for a couple of seconds during which the water increases the bubbling and risks to pour out if the pan’s sides are not sufficiently high.

      So the right pan should be taller than its diameter and capacious enough to contain a good amount of water.

      The minimum ratio between water and pasta is 1lt every 100gr. Although, for small amount of pasta it’s better to use a fairly large and deep pan which will keep the water to temperature also after dropping the pasta in. So that’s why I prefer to use 5lt of water even just to cook a single portion of pasta.

      Another important detail of which to take care, is the right quantity of salt to add to the water. It depends on the quantity of salt the condiment for pasta is going to contain and the cooking time that pasta requires; not only on your personal taste.

      A normal dose of salt is 11-12gr per litre of water and it can be increased to a maximum of 14-15gr for those who like their food to be particularly savoury. When using ingredients which are already salty themselves, like bacon or ham, the dose can be lowered to a minimum of 9-10gr per litre of water, as well as when you know that you will bind pasta with a lot of its own cooking water.

      Keep also in mind that longer cooking time requires smaller doses of salt whereas quicker cooking will need a larger dose.

  • 2.
    Frying the rind, putting the pasta to boil and grating the cheese

    • Water- 5lt (boiling)
    • Salt - 40gr
    • Bucatini - 240gr
    • Guanciale rind (if present)
    • Extra virgin olive oil - 25gr
    • Pecorino Romano Cheese - 80gr

      Guanciale should have been sold to you with its rind: it protects the meats from drying out and preserves the flavours. Put the frying pan on a high heat, add the olive oil and the rind (step 2 - pic. A), which will start curling and browning along the edges, while the lard cells will break and sweat their fat out. This will mix with the olive oil and change colour gaining more and more heat and becoming almost transparent (step 2 - pic. B). Finely grate into a small plate the pecorino cheese and set aside.
      As soon as water starts boiling, add the 40gr of salt and after the boiling has settled again, add the pasta in (step 2 - pic. C). Stir frequently for the first few minutes to avoid the pasta sticking to the bottom or to each other.
      Bucatini will take from 8 to 10 minutes to cook, but you will need to strain them 1 or 2 minutes earlier: you will keep a couple of ladles of the cooking water to add it to the pasta while binding it with the guanciale in the frying pan. Since bucatini are quite thick, I suggest to go as close as possible to the cooking point.

  • 3.
    Slicing and frying the guanciale

    • Guanciale (possibly with its rind) - 180gr
    • Ground black pepper - a pinc
    • The fats and rind in the frying pan

      Finely slice the guanciale sideways, so that each slice will equally have both fat and meat (step 3 - pic. A). Two minutes before staining the pasta, add it to the frying pan with the rind (step 3 - pic. B). Let it fry and get crispy while the fat will become whitish and almost transparent. Season it with a pinch of black pepper (step 3 - pic. C).

  • 4.
    Straining the pasta

      Eight or nine minutes have past since you dropped the bucatini into the water. They will not be ready yet and if you lift one strand with a fork, you will see that it does not hang vertically as if it was perfectly cooked "al dente”.
      Collect about 20ml or 25ml of cooking water with a ladle and put aside in a small receptacle.
      Drain the pasta thoroughly with a strainer. Do not let it dry completely: the water that coasts the bucatini will protect them form the thermic shock they will go through when tossing on the frying pan. As an alternative, you can use a pasta server and move the pasta directly from the saucepan to the frying pan (step 4).

      Note about the correct cooking point "al dente”

      “Al dente” literally means “to the tooth”. It indicates the perfect consistency that pasta, or any other food, should have at the end of the cooking process: not too soft and not too hard at chewing. Pasta cooked “al dente” maintains a harder consistency at the centre of the dough sheet which gives the diners a pleasant feeling of “biting” rather than “mushing” something under their teeth..

  • 5.
    Binding pasta and sauce

    • Drained bucatini
    • Cooking water - about 20ml or 25ml
    • The grated Pecorino Romano cheese
    • Ground black pepper - about 3gr or to taste
    • The frying pan with the sauce

      Bring the heat under the frying pan to a medium-high level; then immediately add all bucatini. Stir and toss quickly with the two spoons then add one ladle of cooking water and keep tossing and stirring frequently (step 5 - pic. A).
      The fat and the water will reduce quickly cooking the past, the starch of which will thicken the sauce. Add another ladle if you think that the pasta needs to cook  a little longer.
      If not, take the pan off the heat.
      Add the black pepper and two thirds of the pecorino cheese, toss and stir again (step 5 - pic. B).
      Please note that this dish is intended to be dryer than other pasta dishes and it must have quite a coarse-grained texture. This is the reason why the binding process is different than usual.
      Sprinkle the remaining pecorino cheese on top and serve immediately.

      Note about binding pasta

      As well as for rice, almost all recipes require pasta to be bound together with its sauce and tossed over heat. This allows the sauce to grab on the surface of pasta, wether it is smooth or lined or copper drawn, so that every forkful will have its perfect balance of flavours and textures. Otherwise, sauce would slip away while eating and you would end up with a good quantity of the sauce still on the bottom of the bowl.
      Another very good idea, even if not allowed by etiquette, is to eat pasta, any kind of pasta, with some nice fresh crusty bread. Bread’s starchy flavour enhances both flavours of sauce and pasta dough itself.

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