View this email in your browser

Rome’s greatest hits

There are four famous pastas of Roman cuisine and, having done the other three, it’s time for the fourth: pasta alla gricia.

This less well-known dish is still super important as it’s essentially the linchpin of the other three dishes. If those three had a greatest hits album then this would be it.

Cheese, guanciale, pepper… Seriously, stick a fork in me. I’m done.

This week’s album: No Angel by Dido

A subscriber request this week, and one I’m happy to accept. This album was the UK’s second best-selling album of the 2000s (James Blunt was the first). It’s got some great songs on it, not least ‘Thank You’ which Eminem sampled on his breakout hit ‘Stan’.

Shepherds watched their pasta by night

So what can you expect from pasta alla gricia?

Well… Think pasta alla carbonara without the egg. Cacio e pepe with added guanciale. And pasta all’amatriciana without the tomato (in fact pasta alla gricia is often referred to as ‘amatriciana in bianco’ - meaning white or without tomato).

As with all of these dishes, it arose from necessity. Lazio, the region in which Rome is the capital, is famous for sheep farming. It’s why sheep’s milk pecorino (‘pecora’ translates to ‘sheep’) features so heavily in Roman cuisine.

In years gone by (like pre-Netflix swindler shows, TikTok dances, and wordle nonsense) the shepherds required foods that would keep well when they were away from home for days on end. Aged cheese and heavily cured pork jowl were perfectly suited.

Why the name ‘gricia’? Many suspected origins… One story suggests it originated from a hamlet in Lazio called Grisciano. Another that it was derived from the word ‘grigio’, meaning grey, due to the grey tint the fried guanciale can give the dish.

However, the most likely explanation is that in papal Rome sellers of common groceries were called ‘grici’. So ‘pasta alla gricia’ would refer to a dish made from simple ingredients available at a ‘gricio’.

Rome's famous four

What you need

The below serves 2. It takes 5 mins to prep, then 15 mins to cook.

200-220g dried pasta (rigatoni, penne, spaghetti, linguine, bucatini are all commonly used)
150g guanciale or pancetta (cut into lardons of similar size)
60g pecorino romano (finely grated)
Freshly ground black pepper

Ready, steady, cook

1. Place a large pan of seasoned water on a high heat. This is for the pasta.

2. Add the diced guanciale/pancetta to a large cold frying pan. Put the pan on a medium-high heat. The fat will start to render and the meat will begin to colour. The aim is to gradually colour the meat and get it crispy (don’t rush as cooking it too quickly will toughen the meat).

3. While the meat cooks (it will take 5-6 mins), add the pasta to the water and set a timer according to the packet instructions for ‘al dente’.

4. Check on the guanciale/pancetta. When coloured and crispy (all the fat should be rendered), turn off the heat.

5. When there is a minute left on the timer, start to heat up the pan with the guanciale/pancetta in.

6. When the pasta is cooked, transfer it directly from the pasta pan (using tongs or a slotted spoon), to the now hot frying pan. Toss through the crispy lardons and rendered fat until the water and fat has emulsified.

NOTE: if you prefer to drain your pasta using a colander, rather than using tongs/slotted spoon, be sure to save some of the cooking water as it’s essential for finishing the dish and making a creamy sauce.

7. Remove the pan from the heat and add in the grated pecorino romano, along with a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Stir or toss vigorously until the cheese melts and combines with the emulsified guanciale fat and cooking water, adding a little cooking water as required to create a silky smooth sauce.

NOTE: the pasta water is the key ingredient for making a creamy sauce so don't be afraid to use it. Add a little at a time, stir until it's combined and assess whether you need more. It'll take almost a full ladle.

8. Divide between warm bowls and finish with a little more grated pecorino and black pepper.

Final thought

Enjoyed our Roman pasta dishes? Wait till next week when we’ll look at Rome’s ‘dirtiest’ recipe.

Speak then,


Painting a pretty picture? 

Tag your dishes with #eatmywordslondon, or hit reply to this email with a photo.


This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Eat My Words · Kew Gardens · Kew, TW9 · United Kingdom

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp