Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pasta alla gricia

Preparation time: 15 minutes.
Details: approx. €10 to serve 4/5 people.


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Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe, Amatriciana and Gricia: the kings of Roman pastas! Those are the top 4 "seriously Roman" pasta dishes you cannot miss if you visit Rome! We will dedicate separate posts to each recipe, as each one has a different story and preparation. We are talking about very simple pasta recipes whose origins lay in central Italy shepherd's traditions: this means that any ingredient substitution is not minor and will screw up everything

Pasta alla Gricia is the least famous of the group, but surely many people's favorite....

Let's do some history first: Pasta alla Gricia is the old ancestor of the more famous Pasta all' Amatriciana, and is also known as "Amatriciana in bianco" (basically Amatriciana without tomato sauce). The name origins from a small town in central Lazio: Grisciano, which is very close to Amatrice. Amatrice is the world-famous capital of the incredible Pasta all'Amatriciana (we will soon talk about this in a new post): a small and beautiful town, located on the Lazio mountains in the very heart of Italy. 

pictures of Amatrice
Amatrice, Lazio, Italy

Back in the past local shepherds used to cook a very simple but super-satisfying dish at dinner that would help them facing the harshness and toughness of the next day. They used to cook this pasta when descending from the mountains with their sheeps. That's why the ingredients had to be very poor and represented the most popular local products: Pecorino romano (the hard, tangy grating cheese made from sheep's milk) and Guanciale (cured pork jowl, which has a unique, intensely piggy flavor). At the beginning of the nineteenth century many shepherds moved to Rome, due to a severe sheep-farming crisis. Gricia and Amatriciana started to become very popular dishes among Romans and since then these pasta recipes are associated to the Italian capital.

The good news for all those who live far from Amatrice or Grisciano is that it's very easy to reproduce Pasta alla Gricia, IF you stick to tradition. Before listing the very simple ingredients, please bear in mind what follows:

NO GARLIC!
NO ONION!
NO PARMESAN!
NO PARSLEY!
NO BUTTER!
NO CHILI!
NO BACON!

NO, NO, NO!

Ok, let's get calm again and list the ingredients for 4 persons:
  • 500 grams Rigatoni or Bucatini or Spaghetti
  • 125 grams guanciale (you can find it at Best of Italy or Fallon&Byrne in Dublin, or buy it online!)
  • 150 grams Pecorino (easily found at Superquinn, Fresh, Best of Italy or Fallon&Byrne)
  • a small glass of white wine
  • 1 tbspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • pepper and salt
The preparation is idiot-proof: sticking to tradition is EASY. Seriuosly, hortodoxy is King in this case. Creative licence is allowed, however, when it comes to pasta - as you can see above (we tried with both Rigatoni and Spaghetti for the post).

Bring your well-salted pasta water to a boil. While the water is heating, slice the guanciale thinly into narrow strips and grate the Pecorino.


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Place the guanciale in a cold pan with a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and place over medium heat; the olive oil helps to render the fat evenly and acts as a conduit, transferring the flavor from the pan to the pasta. When the guanciale strips are starting to get translucent, add less than half glass of white wine. Leave the guanciale on the fire for few more minutes, waiting for the wine to evaporate and allowing it to release more precious fat that will become the pasta natural sauce! Don't burn the guanciale: it just needs to get brownish. The smell of the Guanciale moist will basically leave you speechless at this stage.


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When the pasta reaches the Al Dente texture, quickly drain it and add it to the pan and turn on the heat. Toss the pasta vigorously coating with the guanciale and the fat, grinding some black pepper on it. Remove the pan from the heat and add the previously grated pecorino (it should not melt on the pasta, so remove the pan from the heat before this step!). This will add the perfect sheepy taste to the pasta. 


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Fatto: Harmony, Sublimity, Simplicity, Art and Splendor all in one plate.


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Ecche-to-dico affà? 

2 comments:

  1. ...Só para provar que a mania de misturar alho, cebola,salsa picada etc.,que colocamos em tudo para "temperar" pode ser substituída pela "pobreza" de ingredientes com resultados super super!!!!!

    ReplyDelete