By Ippolita Douglas Scotti:
Pasta alla Gricia is a very ancient Roman recipe. According to food historians, this recipe was invented around 400 C.E. and was a typical dish served in the taverns of Ancient Rome.
Like other classical Italian recipes, the exact origins of the term “alla Gricia” are uncertain.
Some believe that the recipe originally came from a town called Griciano, from where its popularity spread to Rome and the rest of Lazio.
The most important step to cook an authentic Roman pasta alla Gricia is choosing the right ingredients, though there are very few: guanciale (cured pig jowl), Pecorino Romano, spaghetti, bucatini or rigatoni, and a generous amount of freshly crushed black pepper.
The star of this comfort dish is the guanciale, cut into strips, but if you can’t find it, you can use a good peppered fatty pancetta—but it won’t taste the same! Guanciale has a unique, intense flavor. You can also personalize your own pasta alla Gricia with chilli pepper, garlic, onions, or herbs, though I would suggest trying this recipe with just the authentic ingredients.
I’m sure that you’ll love it as much as the Romans do!
Pasta alla Gricia
1 lb. (454 g) spaghetti or rigatoni
1/2 lb. (approx. 200 g) guanciale
1 cup + (150 g) grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Black pepper, freshly ground
2 tbs Extra Virgin olive oil
Cut the guanciale into strips and grate the pecorino. Heat an iron skillet and fry the guanciale, rendering the fat until crisp and golden.
Meanwhile, put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Add salt once it starts to boil and bring to the boil again. Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the pack.
When the pasta is nearly cooked, ladle a little starchy water from the pot and add it to the guanciale and stir.
Before draining the pasta, save some more of the pasta cooking water. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and quickly add it to the frying pan together with the pork jowl and 2 tbs of olive oil. Mix well and cook for a minute over medium heat.
Remove from the heat and add half the grated Pecorino cheese and a generous amount of ground black pepper.
Mix well and serve immediately, sprinkling the rest of the grated Pecorino Romano.
Contessa Ippolita Douglas Scotti di Vigileno is a true Italian—born in Florence, Italy, from a long line of eccentric Italian aristocrats, she has traveled the world in search of adventure, romance, and magical, mouth-watering recipes. "Ippo" loves Italian history, especially as it relates to food. Author of There's a Beatle in My Soup, Curcuma e Zenzero (Ginger & Tumeric), 101 Perche Sulla Storia di Firenze (101 questions on Florence History), The Grimore, The Magic of the Moon, and Magic Herbs (all published by Newton Compton Publishers).