It’s lunch time and I decide to make pasta alla Gricia … just ‘because’.
It is being unseasonably warm for this time of year but, even so, there is an inescapable feel of Autumn in the air, of days slowing down, of the mind wandering off dreamily, of yawns ripening earlier in the day, of tempos altering to an Adagio as the lingering darkness of days seeps into our consciousness and sleeping patterns.
This is how I made it:
I didn’t have spaghetti, I didn’t have rigatoni … so I made do with big, fat paccheri. I did have “guanciale” (cured pork jowl) which I went on to trim and then cut into matchstick shape. Here is the guanciale rendering its fat in a saucepan. I grated some pecorino cheese and had black pepper at the ready. When the paccheri were almost cooked, I lowered them into the saucepan with the guanciale and the fat it had rendered. I added a little bit of the cooking water and tossed the pan. I twisted quite a lot of pepper … And here is the Gricia, under a shower of freshly grated pecorino.Guanciale playing peekaboo from within a pacchero.
The Gricia pasta sauce is the antecedent to the Amatriciana or Matrician sauce … the ingredients are just about the same except for the tomato. So you can think of the Gricia as an amatriciana without tomato. Please note that by matriciana or matriciana, I mean pork jowl (guanciale) and pecorino, on top of the tomato — no parmesan or other bits and pieces.
Legend abounds over this recipe almost as much as over the amtriciana. There is a small town, not far away from Amatrice, called Grisciano — only a few kilometres away from the border with the Marche, but still in Lazio. I never had pasta alla Gricia when growing up, it wasn’t part of my family’s repertoire, and only discovered it in adult life, in Rome. I did eat it in the tiny town of Grisciano too, however, and that’s where I first got to hear of the story of this pasta’s origin.
Does it really matter so long as it tastes delicious?