This is my version of the classic Roman pasta dish made with pasta, pancetta and pecorino. In Rome, the dish is made with guanciale (cured pig jowl) instead of pancetta (cured pig belly). This is the perfect example of a dish whose ingredients are so few, they must each be stellar.
My inspiration for making this dish was the beautiful hunk of pancetta that my neighbor Beppi gave me a couple of months ago.
This pancetta is perfectly seasoned, perfectly balanced between fat and lean, and absolutely irresistable. I’ve been using it little by little and putting into as many things as I can think of. This dish features it to maximum effect.
My variation from the standard Roman dish includes another ingredient–red onion. A Roman might not condone the use of onion in this dish, but I like the sweet counterpoint it provides to the salty pancetta.
This dish is ready in the time it takes to boil water. Simply saute the pancetta and onion together in olive oil, until they both turn soft, just before they begin to caramelize. You don’t want caramelized onions or crispy pancetta here. The two ingredients should be meltingly soft and tender. Their residual moisture, combined with a bit of pasta water, provides the entire sauce for the dish. If you like pasta alla carbonara, you’ll love this dish.
As a second course tonight, I decided to serve a nice assortment of fresh, clean vegetables from Beppi’s garden–string beans (dressed with lemon and olive oil), eggplant (sauteed with olive oil and finished with parsley), sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, and peppery arugula (dressed with oil and lemon).
Pasta alla Gricia, Italian-Ate Style
1 lb linguini or spaghetti
4 oz. pancetta, sliced thinly
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
black pepper to taste
1 tbl fresh chopped parsley
grated pecorino romano for sprinkling
As the pasta water comes to a boil, place the pancetta, onion, and oil in a skillet large enough to hold the pasta.
Turn heat on low and cover. Bring the pancetta and onion to a simmer and slowly cook until they are both soft, melting, and just beginning to caramelize–about 10 minutes.
When pasta is a minute shy of done, drain and add to pancetta and onion, along with about a quarter-cup of pasta cooking water. Sprinkle with parsley, stir and toss over high heat, adding a couple of tablespoons of pecorino cheese to emulsify.
Serve with plenty of grated pecorino and black pepper.