Pasta Alla Gricia - Wine Dine With Jeff

INGREDIENTS

  • 9 Oz of Guanciale (Pork Cheek) or use pancetta if you can not find Guanciale
  • 3.5 Oz of grated Pecorino Romano Cheese (1 cup grated)
  • 1 Teaspoon of cracked black pepper (No salt needed)
  • 14 to 16 Oz of rigatoni pasta

Directions

  • 1. Rome is best known for the iconic quartet of pasta, Carbonara, Cacio e pepe, Amatriciana and Pasta Alla Gricia. The only difference between Carbonara and Gricia is that the Pasta Alla Gricia does not have eggs in the recipe. Gricia only has 4 ingredients Guanciale, Pecorino Romano, Black Pepper and Pasta and what happens when you combine these simple 4 ingredients is just heaven. The dish is salty and creamy without adding any cream it's all about the emulsification between the rendered pork fat and starchy water that creates this luscious creamy texture. I have extremely important steps along the way so that your Pasta Alla Cricia taste like you are eating in Rome.
  • 2. Start buy Cutting Thicker lardon slices of the Guanciale. I cut 1/2 inch by 1 inch lardon pieces of Guanciale. More and more specialty shops are starting to carry Guanciale. Guanciale is an Italian cured pork from the jowl or cheeks. If you can not find Guanciale you can use Pancetta that is a Italian cured pork cut from the pork belly. The difference is that the Guanciale has more fat that we render out but very close.
  • 3. Using a large Dutch oven add the guanciale to a cold pan with no oil and turn the burner to medium low. When you start out low and slow the fat will render out of the meat. We want to end up with most of the fat removed from the guanciale. This is important because we will be using this fat to emulsify and create this decadent sauce.
  • 4. It will take 10 to 15 minutes to render out the fat from the pork and crisp up the outer edges. Depending on how hot your burner is keep and eye on the pork and stir every few minutes so that all the guanciale turns golden brown. The reason why I cut the pork in lardon sizes is because they get crispy on the outer edge but stays slightly chewy in the middle. With a slotted spoon remove all the guanciale when finished and place on a paper towel lined plate to soak up any extra oil.
  • 5. At the same time while the Guanciale is still cooking add 2 1/2 quarts of water to a large pot to boil the pasta. This is very different from when you normally add 4 to 5 quarts of water to pasta, the reason behind this is that we want to end up with VERY starchy water this helps in the emulsification process for a creamy sauce. You need to stir the pasta more often right at first to keep from sticking together because we are using less water. It is also important not to add salt to the pasta water yes this is going against all traditional Italian cooking but the Guanciale and Pecorino Romano cheese are very salty and no salt is needed in this recipe. Cook the pasta to a chewy al dente 1 to 2 minutes less than the box directions because we will be cooking it in the sauce for 2 minutes longer.
  • 6. Add a strainer to a large bowl to catch all the starchy pasta water. When the pasta is finished to the perfect al dente pour the pasta and water into the strainer. Do not rinse pasta we want to keep the starchy water on the noodles. Reserve 2 cups of the cloudy starchy pasta water.
  • 7. I am giving a WARNING in this step. Add the 2 cups of pasta water to the rendered guanciale fat. You should have from 1/3 cup to no more than 1/2 cup of rendered fat in the pan. If your rendered fat is HOT when mixed with the pasta water is will bubble up and expand so make sure you have a large pot for the immediate expansion. That only happens when the rendered fat is extremely hot. Add the cracker black pepper and boil on medium high for 5 to 6 minutes. The agitation of the boiling action separates the fat molecules and the starchy water helps keep them separated this is when the sauce will emulsify. The sauce will reduce to a little over 1 1/2 cups. Add 3 tablespoons of hot starchy water to the grated Pecorino Romano cheese and stir together and set aside.
  • 8. After the sauce is reduced add the pasta to the pan with the Pecorino Romano Cheese stir in the pan for 2 minutes to finish cooking the noodles and to let the sauce thicken up. You will see the sauce thicken up and turn a little creamy when the cheese is added. I can't believe this recipe has only 4 ingredients but tastes just amazing. The complexity and layers of flavors are just out of this world. I hope this becomes your new favorite pasta recipe. When you plate up finish with a little more Pecorino Romano Cheese and enjoy.

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