How to make perfect Roman spaghetti alla Gricia

Spaghetti alla Gricia

Spaghetti alla Gricia is one of the most famous and tasty regional dishes of Rome and Lazio. It is sometimes called Amatriciana in Bianco because it is made without tomatoes and is the true ancestor of todays pasta amatriciana.

The key ingredient of spaghetti alla Gricia is the ‘guanciale’ which is the cheek of the pig but this can be replaced with bacon or lardons.

Spaghetti alla Gricia is made in the same way as the infamous Roman dish Carbonara, but without the egg. One theory of the origin of this dish claims that it was invented in a town called Grisciano, in the region of Lazio. This town is located close to Amatrice, where amatriciana was born on a later date, given that back then tomatoes had not been brought to the region yet. This theory claims therefore that the recipe was then spread to the entire region of Lazio.

Tips to making the perfect Gricia

Avoid using pre-grated pecorino cheese as it is often coated in cornflour which helps retard melting. Grate it on the small holes of a box grater; larger shreds won’t melt.

Spaghetti alla Gricia – serves 2 – 4 people

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil,
  • 3 1/2 oz (100 grams) of pork cheek (or pancetta) cut into thin strips or diced
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 oz (350 grams) spaghetti
  • 3 1.2 oz (100 grams) pecorino cheese, grated
  • salt
Spaghetti alla Gricia
  1. Bring to a boil a pot with plenty of salted water and add the pasta.
  2. Meanwhile, put the bacon in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the extra virgin olive oil. Cook until the cheek begins to darken (the fat parts must remain transparent, not too golden or too crisp).
  3. When the pasta is al dente, remove one cup of the cooking water and set it aside before draining the pasta.
  4. Transfer the pasta directly into the pan with the meat, adding a little of the cooking water to help mix and create a light sauce.
  5. Season with salt and plenty of pepper; add half of the pecorino and if necessary a little more cooking water to help avoid it getting sticky.
  6. Stir energetically until the pasta, the bacon and the cheese are well blended.
  7. Serve immediately with the remaining Roman pecorino.
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