There was a time when I thought bacon was the perfect pork product. Then I moved to Rome and discovered guanciale. While bacon comes from the sides or belly of the pig, guanciale is the cured pork jowl. It is used in lots of dishes in Lazio, the most famous being carbonara and amatriciana, where it lends its delicate flavor and plenty of fat. I like carbonara well enough but if I had to choose one guanciale laden dish, it would be bucatini all’amatriciana, thick spaghetti with a guanciale, tomato, and pecorino sauce. There is just something about the way that the pork fat mingles with the tomato sauce and coats the pasta that I find irresistible.
Yesterday, I took some friends to Roscioli on Via dei Giubbinari in Rome for dinner and they ordered mezze maniche all’amatriciana that came with big crispy jowl cubes mixed into the slightly sweet tomato sauce. While I personally prefer thinner slivers of guanciale in my pasta, Roscioli’s rendition of this typical laziale dish isn’t half bad. In fact, it inspired us to buy a slab of quality guanciale, fine pecorino, and some nice durum wheat pasta trafilata al bronzo from Roscioli’s deli to take home. With ingredients this good, it is hard to go wrong.