This Pasta alla Gricia recipe is one of the pillars of Roman pasta, along with: Spaghetti Carbonara, Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe and Amatriciana! With a creamy pecorino cheese sauce and fine Italian guanciale, you’ll love this dish!
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How to Make Spaghetti alla Gricia
Pasta alla Gricia, sometimes called White Amatriciana is a traditional Roman dish. This underrated Italian pasta dish featured a creamy pecorino romano sauce, black pepper and fine crispy guanciale. You definitely want to look for it in restaurants when you visit Rome!
Pasta alla Gricia is considered the child of Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe pasta and the parent of Amatriciana pasta. Adding the pecorino shredded at the end, or as a cheese sauce are both considered acceptable preparations of this traditional Italian pasta recipe!
Guanciale or Pancetta?
Guanciale is more traditional in this dish, but pancetta is ok too. Pancetta is cured pork belly, while guanciale is cured pork cheek.
Preventing Clumpy Pecorino Cheese Sauce
We prevent clumpy cheese sauce in three ways: using finely grated cheese, preparing the cheese paste carefully, and adding the cheese sauce to the pasta off the heat.
It’s critical to use finely grated pecorino here. Freshly grated cheese is always tastier, but if you grate the cheese with a food processor, you may want to also pass it through a strainer to make it even finer. The finely grated cheese available in most groceries will be the perfect consistency.
By slowly drizzling in the hot pasta water into the grated cheese, you should naturally keep the mixture above 140°F (60°C)—the temperature at which the cheese will coagulate.
Finally, we add the cheese paste to the pasta off the heat. Once again, this is done to keep the temperature of the cheese below the point where it would start coagulating and creating clumps and strings.
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Authentic Pasta alla Gricia Recipe
- 1 tbsp black pepper preferably freshly ground (medium coarse)
- 6 oz pecorino romano cheese semi-aged
- 6 oz guanciale or pancetta
- ½ cup white wine
- 11 oz spaghetti or tonnarelli
Toast the Pepper
- Briefly toast black pepper in a dry pan over low heat—just until you start to smell it. This shouldn’t take longer than a minute. Transfer the pepper to another container and set it aside.
- For the best flavor, freshly grind the pepper using a medium-coarse setting. Medium coarse pepper is easier to toast without over-toasting—and creating pepper gas!
Fry the Guanciale
- Cut the guanciale into thick slices, then into 1/2 inch strips.
- Fry the guanciale in a dry pan over medium-low heat until the fat turns translucent. Then raise the heat a bit to crisp up the outside of the pieces. As the guanciale fries…
Partially Cook the Pasta
- Add the pasta to boiling water and cook it for 3/4 of the cook time recommended for ‘al dente’ pasta in the package instructions.
De-Glaze the Pan
- When the guanciale is fried to your liking, add the white wine to de-glaze the pan. This will give the dish an extra boost of flavor, and serve to pull all of the delicious guanciale grease off the bottom of the pan and into our final sauce
Finish Cooking the Pasta
- Add the partially cooked pasta (drained) to the skillet with the guanciale. Add a few ladles of the hot pasta water as well—and save the pasta water as we will still need it!
- Add the black pepper to the cooking pasta. Finish cooking the pasta in the pan for the rest of the cooking time. Add a ladle of water as needed to make sure the pasta has enough to finish cooking. In the meantime…
Make the Cheese Sauce
- To the finely grated pecorino cheese, slowly drizzle in one ladle of hot pasta water—stirring continuously! Mix until you’ve created a smooth, creamy paste.
Finish the Pasta
- When the pasta is cooked, remove it from the heat. Add the cheese paste to the hot pasta and mix thoroughly using a pair of tongs. This is called the ‘mantecatura’ in Italian. Serve immediately and buon appetito!