The recipe for Gricia (Pasta alla Gricia) is one of the oldest and simplest pasta recipes in Roman cuisine. It’s a great classic of Lazio cuisine and has a unique and surprising flavor.
It’s the traditional dish of the Amatrice area. In fact some call it “Amatriciana Bianca” (White Amatriciana). This is because it shares all the ingredients with pasta all’amatriciana except the tomato.
Many consider pasta alla Gricia the ancestor of Amatriciana. In fact, the Gricia recipe definitely originated before the importation and cultivation of tomatoes in Europe.
The authentic recipe for pasta alla Gricia is made with ONLY 4 ingredients: Pasta, Guanciale, Pecorino Romano and ground Black Pepper.
The types of pasta most traditional for this recipe are Rigatoni and Mezze Maniche. Classic Spaghetti or Bucatini, if you prefer the long format, are also perfect for this dish.
Below we explain how to make the authentic recipe for Pasta alla Gricia. Exactly like the one you can find in the best osterias in Rome. We will explain how to get a creamy and tasty Gricia with just a few simple steps!
Pasta alla Gricia Recipe
- Prep Time: 10 Min
- Cook Time: 15 Min
- Servings: 4
Pasta alla Gricia Ingredients
Kitchen Tools and Equipment
It’s much better to grind the pepper at the moment. Don’t use pepper that has already been ground. Pepper Grinder from Oxo has a rotating tab to adjust the pepper grinder setting from fine to coarse.
Electric graters are also very useful. These appliances are equipped with various accessories useful for slicing / mincing vegetables or other ingredients and for grating aged cheese.
Also important is the pan used to finish cooking the pasta. It should be a non-stick pan, large enough for the pasta to mix well.
Step 1) – First, heat a pot of water and bring it to a boil. When it boils, add the coarse salt. Do not over-salt the pasta water because pecorino cheese is very flavorful. Or else you risk having a dish that is too salty.
Meanwhile, grate the pecorino cheese and set aside. We recommend to grate a piece of seasoned pecorino romano. DO NOT use grated, packaged pecorino cheese.
Step 2) – On a cutting board, cut the Guanciale into fairly thick strips. Then into chunks of about 2 cm (about 1 inch).
Place the guanciale in the already hot skillet. Sauté over moderate heat.
Step 3) – When the fatty part has become transparent, let it sizzle in its grease for 2-3 minutes. This way the guanciale is crispy and golden brown but not too dry.
With a slotted spoon, remove it from the skillet. Keep it aside. Leave in the pan the melted fat.
Step 4) – Boil the pasta of your choice (rigatoni, mezze maniche, spaghetti…). Cook the pasta al dente. Drain 2 minutes before the end of the cooking time indicated on the package.
Before draining the pasta, pour a ladleful of the pasta cooking water into the pan. Stir the water with the fat. The cooking water, which is loaded with starch, will make the pasta creamier.
How to Serve Gricia Pasta
Step 5) – Drain the pasta directly into the pan where you cooked the guanciale. Turn the heat back on. Stir and blend the pasta with the guanciale fat.
Then turn off the heat and add the grated pecorino cheese.
Step 6) – Finally add a ladleful of cooking water. Stir very well. You will see that the pecorino will melt, without forming threads or lumps. It’ll create a delicious pecorino cream. Now add the guanciale as well.
Step 7) – Stir and serve with plenty of freshly ground black pepper. If you like, add more grated pecorino cheese. Now you can enjoy your hot, creamy and steaming Pasta alla Gricia!
Pasta alla Gricia should be freshly prepared and enjoyed immediately piping hot. It’s preferable to make it just before bringing it to the table Don’t leave leftovers for the next day.
If it should be leftover, you can store it for up to a day in the refrigerator. You will then need to reheat it in a pan with a little oil or in the microwave.
Guanciale or Pancetta?
Why use guanciale, when pancetta (bacon) is much easier to get? Because guanciale is pure magic! If you remove its golden fat, the Gricia becomes flat and drab. The reason is the intrinsic quality of the ingredients: guanciale has flavor and fat, pancetta is drier.
Guanciale is an Italian cured meat made from jowl or pork cheeks.
Its name comes from guancia, Italian for cheek, sometimes translated with pork cheek lard or jowl bacon. Salted and peppered, it’s left to mature for 3 months.
Today we have shown you the traditional Roman recipe for pasta alla Gricia, where guanciale is the main ingredient. In fact, the flavor, the fat, we could say the juice of the sauce comes from this little jewel of Italian culinary art.
Many use Pancetta, sometimes because it’s easier to find commercially. But more often they use it because guanciale is a rather fatty meat. There is no doubt that it’s a high-calorie ingredient.
One can consider Gricia with Pancetta a variation (accepted) of the traditional recipe. Definitely DO NOT use smoked Bacon or Speck.
Pasta alla Gricia History. Origins of the Recipe
“Pasta alla Gricia” is one of the most famous culinary specialties of popular Roman cuisine. But the origins of this dish are unclear.
According to some, the recipe was born in the distant past in the town of Amatrice, on the border between Lazio and Abruzzo. It probably comes from the custom that shepherds had of carrying some foods with them. Such as lard, dried pasta, pecorino cheese and pepper.
These ingredients were their main source of nourishment during the long days of work among the pastures. Mixed together, they gave rise to a dish similar to today’s Gricia recipe.
Many consider Pasta alla Gricia the ancestor of Amatriciana. In fact, the Gricia recipe definitely was born before the importation and cultivation of tomatoes in Europe.
What does “Gricia” mean in Italian?
The more dialectal name “gricia” or “griscia” probably comes from the town of Gresciano, near Amatrice, where this recipe may have originated.
Another hypothesis is that the name Gricia may come from “gricio,” a retailer of bread and other food products in the Roman dialect.
The term “griscium” in ancient Rome also indicated the gray aprons that pasta makers wore so as not to get dirty with flour.
This term has taken on a negative connotation over time. Pasta alla Griscia in this sense may allude to a poor recipe of popular derivation.