SPAGHETTI ALLA GRICIA (with bacon and cheese, for three as a main course or six as a first course)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces guanciale, pancetta or bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces (In Italy, the first choice is guanciale, pork jowl that is salted and cured, but not smoked. This may be hard to find in the U.S., so pancetta, pork belly that is salted and cured but not smoked, is often substituted. Bacon, pork belly that is salted, cured and smoked, is a third possibility.)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound spaghetti or other long, thin pasta
½ cup grated pecorino Romano, more to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. In a 12 inch skillet, large enough to later accommodate the cooked pasta, combine olive oil and meat, and turn heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the guanciale has rendered its fat and is crispy and nicely browned, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat.
- Add 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling water and cook pasta until tender but not mushy (about 9 minutes for Barilla spaghetti) Reserve about a cup of water before draining pasta.
- Toss drained pasta with meat and its juices; stir in the cheese. If mixture is dry, add a little pasta cooking water (or a little olive oil). Season with plenty of black pepper and serve.
adapted from Mark Bittman, the New York Times