Return to Pasta all’Amatriciana, with Guanciale

You may recall that that last year we posted a version of Pasta all’Amatriciana, the celebrated Italian pasta dish that every Southerner should love. It’s basically pasta with tomato sauce and bacon, and given our long love affair with pork, it’s a natural fit for the Southern palate.

Since that post, though, amatriciana has gotten a little more press, including this spread in the New York Times in January. The Times article focused on the necessity of including guanciale, which is cured meat from the cheek of the pig. That’s right–we’re talking hog jowls.*

I knew that I shared a deep, primal kinship with the Italian people, and now I know why. Our shared love of pork fat creates a bond that transcends time and space. It saddens me to think that my grandmother never had the chance to try guanciale. Every New Year’s day she made us hog jowls, black-eyed peas, and greens to ensure that we would be fat, happy, and rich, and I am sure a little guanciale would have helped her cause.

Luckily, time and space have converged to bring guanciale into our home, through Rainbow Meadow Farms. We visited their stand at the Raleigh Farmer’s Market and decided to take some guanciale with us.

Here’s a small portion of the fatty glory that now sits in our fridge.

The portion here represents what we used in the amatriciana I made on Sunday. According to the Times guanciale means “pillow,” and it’s easy to see why. Wouldn’t this make a nice, soft, satiny, porky object to nestle against your own cheek?

As for the recipe itself, I followed the one from the New York Times–actually obeying it for once. Maybe this is because that with the exception of the guanciale it was pretty much the same as my own.

Here’s the link to the Times’ recipe. I suggest only one modification: Cut the guanciale into thin strips–the 1″ strips suggested here were too thick.

*I am well aware that hog jowls and guanciale are not the same thing. I just like to think they’re close enough.

6 thoughts on “Return to Pasta all’Amatriciana, with Guanciale

  1. God, that sounds good. I’ve been eating lean and mean lately, fresh off the heels of my trip to Memphis, where I ate too many donuts and too much fried fish.

  2. Now I’m hungry.I thought I’d share some cooking knowledge of my own. Last Sunday, I was talking on the phone with Lisa (dissecting the latest episode of Doctor Who, of course), and put on a pot of eggs to boil.You can see where this is going.Much later, I was lying upstairs trying to take a nap, but I kept hearing these banging noises. Albert and Boo weren’t home, so I decided it must be Greebo.Later, I began to smell the chicken cooking downstairs. Only, wait, it didn’t really smell like chicken…I’m lucky, really, that only two of the eggs actually exploded. I found bits of super-cooked egg yolk on the ceiling, and almost all of one exploded egg corpse on top of the stove hood. It must have been a pretty spectacular trajectory to end up there.My tip: When you think to yourself, “Oh, I won’t forget that I put those on…” You will.

  3. Just found your blog via eat at joes. Thanks for writing it. I’m terribly forgetful and finally – after much trouble – learned to ALWAYS ALWAYS clip a clothespin on some part of my clothing to remind me of things like boiling eggs or cooking beans or water on for filling troughs for the livestock.

  4. I ate this for the first time in Italy, and forgot about it, and then had a spectacular moment of memory when the NYT printed the recipe. I’m in Chapel Hill, and I’m wondering if you have any idea whether guanciale might be available at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market/the meat vendor you purchased some from also stops by over here? I’m willing to drive to Raleigh to find it, but it’d be nicer if I could just walk up the street.

  5. Hi Kim:I’m afraid Rainbow Meadow Farms doesn’t seem to sell in Carrboro. There’s an order form on their Web site (, as well as other information, so you might want to start there. If I find another good guanciale source I’ll let you know. By the way, Rainbow Meadow also has great chickens.

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