Pasta Alla Gricia

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Pasta Alla Gricia finish

Buon giorno!

Looking back, so many regional dishes of my youth were those from Campania or Napoletana in origin because of my father, Attilio’s influence. However, my mother, Loretta, had family roots just a little further up the map in the region of Lazio (the region of Rome) – more specifically Minturno, a beautiful and charming seaside town. For this reason, some very interesting recipes crept into our little kitchen which were clearly different from the those of the Napoli-Amalfi area.

As a hat tip to Loretta’s “people”, as they used to say, we will prepare one of the easiest and most delicious pasta dishes ever created which hails from the Lazio region – PASTA ALLA GRICIA. This regional dish will be strangely familiar to some as it is quite similar to Carbonara, also from the Lazio region. Remember that I said similar and not same. Carbonara is not quite as simple, using onion, usually, and of course, egg yolk.

The gricia part is shrouded in some controversy and a little mystery. Actually no one really knows for sure – they just suspect! One of the theories comes from the Latin gricio relating to bread makers. But then you might also find reference to gray garments (griscium )worn by bread makers to cover their clothing. protecting it from flying flour. Whatever it means, it is one of the signature pastas of the region of Lazio along with the more commonly known, Spaghetti Alla Carbonara and Cacio e Pepe.

PASTA ALLA GRICIA, in its authentic form, calls for guanciale (cured pork jowl), but we will use pancetta here, as sometimes guanciale is more difficult to find. If you have access to the guanciale, by all means use it! You will see recipes for this pasta with all sorts of additions like herbs, garlic, or wine, but as with all authentic regional Italian preparations, the original is usually simple. Why complicate something that is already… well… perfect? This pasta has infinite flavor and requires very few ingredients.

The good news is that you may not need added salt. The ingredients, guanciale or pancetta, or even bacon and the Pecorino contain salt. I recommend tasting towards the end of your preparation to see if you need it.

You will see this pasta prepared with spaghetti, perciatelli etc and also the shorter pastas like rigatoni, or penne or even gnocchi.  I like to serve it with mezze rigatoni – the short half-rigatoni.

Many serve this with a white wine, but I like the red because of the pork. Somehow the white doesn’t quite hold up for me. A medium bodied red would be appropriate – such as a Barbera or Montepulciano. If you are fortunate enough to get your mitts on a Cesanese from the Lazio region, you will have achieved perfection!

Let’s do this!


Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: about 20 minutes


1 lb. Pasta – spaghetti, rigatoni, mezze rigatoni, penne, gnocchi

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

6 oz. Guanciale, Pancetta, or even Bacon diced

1 – 1 1/4 C. Pasta Water

Lots of freshly ground black pepper

3/4 C. Pecorino Romano grated cheese + more to serve


Begin by cooking your pasta according to package directions, reserving the designated amount of pasta water above for the sauce.

Once you add the pasta to the boiling water, begin your sauce by cooking the guanciale (preferable), pancetta, or bacon in the oil using a large pan.

Pasta Alla Gricia 1

Cook about 10 minutes or until the meat is browned and crispy.

Remove the diced meat to a bowl or plate.

Pasta Alla Gricia 2

Add the pasta water to the rendered fat in your pan and cook until the sauce thickens slightly –about 5 minutes.

Pasta Alla Gricia 3

Add the cooked, drained pasta to the pan along with the meat, black pepper, and grated Pecorino. Toss well.

Pasta Alla Gricia 4

Served with plenty of additional grated Pecorino. You should not need additional salt as the ingredients are already salty. Taste first!

Pasta Alla Gricia 5

Resist the urge to add wine or herbs to this simple recipe. It will complicate the flavors and change the result.


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  1. Jan Breen says:

    We are making this tonight! It sounds yummy and easy! (Right up my alley) xoxo