In the vast ocean of pasta variations, there is one dish that stands out not only for its rich flavors, but also for its intriguing name: Pasta alla Zozzona.
Its name, “zozzona,” may raise an eyebrow or two, as it colloquially means “dirty” in Italian.
Actually, the term “zozzo” in the context of food in Rome refers to something particularly greedy, hearty, greasy, succulent and, above all, caloric. So rest assured, the only thing “dirty” about this dish is the delightful blend of flavors that defines it!
Pasta alla Zozzona is a glorious blend of some of Italy’s most famous pasta sauces: the creamy richness of Carbonara, the meaty intensity of Amatriciana, the luscious Gricia and the spicy taste of Cacio e Pepe, all blended together to create a symphony of flavors in every bite.
Pasta Alla Zozzona is a hearty combination of guanciale (cured pork cheek), sausage, tomatoes, pecorino cheese and peppers. These ingredients are a staple of Roman cuisine, but their convergence in this particular dish speaks to a creativity that is quintessentially Roman.
While its origins are a mystery, with some speculating that it was the ingenious invention of a resourceful chef mixing up leftovers, the dish has now established its own identity.
For food lovers around the world, Pasta alla Zozzona is an opportunity to experience a medley of Rome’s finest flavors in one dish. So let’s try it!
Pasta alla Zozzona Recipe
- Prep Time: 20 Min
- Cook Time: 30 Min
- Servings: 4
- 360 g (3/4 pound) of Rigatoni. We recommend Rigatoni Cipriani
- 250 g (~1/2 pound) of pork sausage
- 200 g (7 oz) of guanciale
- 4 egg yolks
- 60 g (~4 tablespoons) of Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated + more to serve. Try this Pecorino Romano DOP, perfect for this recipe
- 350 g (1 1/2 cups) of canned San Marzano tomatoes. We recommend Pomodoro San Marzano DOP by Sapure’
- freshly ground black pepper
- fine salt
Step 1) – To prepare Pasta alla Zozzona start by slicing the guanciale about half an inch thick and cutting it into cubes or strips, as you prefer.
Then remove the casing from the sausage and cut it into chunks.
Step 2) – In a large non-stick frying pan, sauté the sausage and guanciale on low heat for about 2 minutes.
Crush the peeled tomatoes with a fork, then add them to the pan.
Step 3) – Let cook for 7-8 minutes on medium heat. At the end taste the sauce and add salt if necessary. Meanwhile, grate the pecorino Romano
Make the Pecorino and Eggs Cream
Step 4) – Separately, in a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the grated pecorino cheese and a generous grinding of black pepper until creamy.
Step 5) – Add a couple of tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to make it creamier, stir and set aside.
Cook the Pasta
Step 6) – Put the pasta to cook in plenty of salted water for the time indicated on the package. In fact, for the perfect success of the dish, the pasta will have to be al dente.
Season and Serve
Step 7) – Turn on the heat under the pan with the tomato sauce, guanciale, and sausage. When the pasta is cooked, drain it with a skimmer directly into the pan. Turn the heat up to high and cnbine for 1 minute.
Step 8) – Now take the pan off the heat and add the cream of eggs and pecorino cheese. The eggs will cook with the heat of the pan and the sauce, without curdling too much. Stir and combine all the ingredients.
Pasta alla Zozzona is Ready! Place into plates, decorating with freshly ground black pepper and grated pecorino romano cheese.
How to Store Pasta alla Zozzona
To store “Pasta alla Zozzona” after cooking, you should allow it to come to room temperature. This prevents the build-up of condensation, which can make the dish too watery.
Then transfer the pasta to an airtight container. Store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
When you’re ready to enjoy your stored pasta, make sure to reheat it thoroughly. If using a microwave, sprinkle a little water over the pasta to prevent it from drying out. If reheating on the stove, you can add a splash of water to help restore its original texture.
Pasta alla Zozzona: Some Variations
The possible variations for the recipe of pasta alla zozzona are not many; they mainly concern the substitution of some ingredients.
Pasta: the authentic recipe calls for rigatoni, but you can use any type of pasta you like. However, we recommend short pasta such as fusilli, penne, mezze maniche and maccheroni.
Cheese: even for cheese, Pecorino Romano would be a must, in fact it’s a very typical cheese of Rome and the Lazio region. However, you can substitute it with Parmigiano Reggiano. Parmigiano, on the other hand, is a typical Italian cheese from the northern regions, less tasty than Pecorino, depending on the seasoning.
Guanciale: If you cannot find guanciale, you can substitute with pancetta, not smoked.
Tomato: Some people use tomato passata, some use peeled tomatoes, and some use fresh tomatoes. We use peeled tomatoes, but other choices work as well.
Pepper: Some people use hot pepper instead of black pepper, others use both. Hot pepper is used in Amatriciana, while pepper is used in Carbonara and Cacio e Pepe, so you would actually need both. For us, it ended up being too spicy, so we went with just black pepper. We think it depends on your taste.
Herbs: basil, parsley, thyme… know that they have nothing to do with this traditional recipe. But if you really like them, go ahead and add the one you prefer in the tomato sauce.
Origin and History of Pasta alla Zozzona Recipe
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when and where “pasta alla zozzona” was first created. It’s more of a contemporary dish than an ancient one, with Romans and tourists looking for something a bit different yet still deeply rooted in Roman culinary tradition.
However, like many dishes, its rise to popularity likely started with someone’s playful experimentation in the kitchen, combining roman beloved recipes into one. It then possibly gained traction locally in Roman trattorias or households before being recognized more widely.
Given its origins, it’s an excellent representation of the evolution of cuisine, where tradition meets modernity, and regional dishes can blend to create something new and exciting.
The term “alla zozzona” comes from the Italian word “zozzo,” which literally means “dirty.” Actually, the word “zozzona” here is used not to mean dirty, but to define something rich, nutritious, and high-calorie.
In fact, the term “zozzo” in the context of food in Rome is meant to indicate something particularly gluttonous, hearty, greasy, succulent, and above all caloric.