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Spaghetti alla Gricia

Introduction

This is my signature dish. The simplicity of it represents everything that I value about good Italian food.

At the Circle of Misse I use this dish to demonstrate recipe deconstruction. Once we have tasted the simplified dish, we then experiment with additional ingredients to identify and assess their contribution. With a small list of additions, this dish can be turned into three very different pasta 'classics'.

After curing the pancetta below, I took a slab of it to the market for Wes and Charlotte who supplied the raw ingredient. Charlotte, who was heavily pregnant at the time, was delighted. She cut off a slice and much to the horror of her customers tucked into it. 'Hey, this is from my pigs and I know what they ate,' was her response.

If you like this recipe visit lapasta.com for more pasta recipes. The site contains a collection of recipes that I began writing and publishing several years ago.

Home-cured Pancetta

Tips

It's all about the quality of the cured pork. Guanciale or pancetta (un-smoked), bacon just won't do. And don't use any lean products, this is all about the fat

Guanciale can found in a few specialist delis and mail-order sites, but it is mostly made by enthusiasts. Pancetta is readily available at Italian delis, ask for it to be cut into slices ½cm\¼inch thick; a little thicker than the slice in the photo, which was purely for tasting :)

Ingredients

  • 175g\6 oz thick cut guanciale or pancetta, cut into lardons (see photo below)
  • Olive oil
  • 360g\13oz good dried spaghetti (not quick cook)
  • 2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion
  • Pecorino cheese (not the kind with peppercorns)
  • Salt & pepper

Home-cured Pancetta

Tools of the Trade

  • Sharp knife
  • A timer for the pasta

Method

Cook the lardons in a heavy pan, big enough to hold the pasta, over a low to medium heat to allow the fat to render gently, about 10-20 minutes (don't rush this).

Add a tablespoon of olive oil and both tablespoons of chopped onion and allow to cook until wilted, but not browned.

Meanwhile cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente. Never trust the timing on the packet. Time for five minutes then test a strand of pasta every 30-60 seconds thereafter.

Drain the pasta, keeping back ½ cup of pasta water and add the drained pasta to the bacon and onion. Add a tablespoon or two of the pasta water, some coarse freshly grated black pepper and toss the pasta for two minutes. Remove the pan from the heat source. Add two tablespoons of olive oil and and continue to toss the pasta for about a minute.

Serve with grated pecorino.

Suggestion

I sometimes crush a small dry red chili in my fingers and add it at the same time as the onion (less black pepper will be needed).

You can subsitute two cloves of garlic for the onion. The flavour will be less sweet.