Giada De Laurentiis' Accessible Guanciale Substitutes For Pasta Alla Gricia

Some of the best Italian cuisines are rustic and simple, made with easy-to-find ingredients available throughout the country. What's available in Italy is not always available or as accessible and of the same quality as what you may find overseas. One good example is pasta alla gricia, a simple, old Roman pasta dish that uses everyday ingredients to create a flavor-packed one-dish meal.

The authentic version of this recipe, which hails from the region of Amatrice, includes just five ingredients: pasta, such as a rigatoni or spaghetti, guanciale, pecorino romano, parmesan, and black pepper. It's much like a carbonara but doesn't include eggs. The most challenging ingredient to find in the U.S. is guanciale, a type of cured Italian pork, which could be available in some specialty shops. 

Its flavor is rich, with a savory, buttery taste. It has more of a notable, deeper flavor than bacon, with a high fat-to-meat ratio. If you want to make pasta alla gricia but you don't want to spend the hefty price for guanciale, there are a few substitutes for guanciale that Giada De Laurentiis recommends.

Add bacon or pancetta as flavorful replacements for guanciale

To recreate this dish and maintain as much of the savory, salty flavor of the traditional version but with a more accessible protein, De Laurentiis suggests bacon, as noted by Giadzy. She also recommends using pancetta if you have that available to you. Guanciale and pancetta are different but share the same type of rich, salty taste and work equally well in the dish. Pancetta comes from a different cut of the pig, coming from the pork belly, while guanciale comes from the pork cheek.

Keep the other ingredients as close to the original as possible. While you can use any pasta you want, the true depth of this dish comes from the cheese blend. The grated parmesan and pecorino romano cheese melt and emulsify when you add just a bit of the pasta water to the dish as you bring it all together. That, along with the pork, helps to make this a truly simple Italian dish that's surprisingly full of flavor and hearty.