All Pasta Dishes Lead to Rome

Well, maybe not all, but apparently most. Yesterday was my friend’s (one of my dearest friends in the whole world) birthday. This girl only has (culinary) eyes for Italian cuisine. So to honor her, I tossed up a hearty batch of pasta for dinner.

The exact origins of Pasta alla Gricia are not quite known, but one tale tells that it was the precursor to Pasta All’Amatriciana. It was purportedly created near the town Amatrice in the Lazio region of Italy (guess which region Rome calls home…) and is sometimes known as “the white amatriciana” as tomatoes had not yet been introduced to the region at the time. This time, I was inspired by this recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine.

This simple recipe is at once refined and simple. No additional seasoning is necessary. Honestly, I wish I would have excluded salt in the pasta water as it too is somewhat incorporated in the dish. All that is required is what is present on the guanciale to thoroughly season the entire dish. (Guanciale comes seasoned with salt, pepper, and various spices.)

The cut of guanciale (which is mostly fat, but that’s ok because you’re using the fat as the basis for the sauce) is diced small and cooked down — way down — over medium-low heat like bacon until it is amber and crispy. Pasta cooking water is introduced and boiled to encourage emulsification (and sauciness). The pasta and a little Pecorino Romano is introduced after a bit to marry the whole dish into a silky, deeply-flavored, comforting dish of carbo-goodness.

Pasta alla Gricia is close cousins with not only Amatriciana, but also another favorite: Carbonara. All equally delicious meals, but ones in which to be indulged occasionally. What are some of your favorite pasta dishes?

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