A little bit of unsmoked pig jowl goes a long way...
January 15, 2008 11:59 PM   Subscribe

Everyone knows how seriously Italians take their food. So a debate about the origins of a humble pasta dish isn't any real surprise, though an appetizing read. Made with (formerly hard to find, state-side) Guanciale, (cured, unsmoked pig jowl), at least one proper recipe exists if you can find some to try your hand at it with.
posted by disillusioned (19 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

I was recently at my favorite Asian grocery, home of the most interesting meat counter in the city, trying to find pork cheeks to try my hand at making guanciale. After much gesturing and several failed attempts at communicating what I wanted, his eyes lit up and he reached in the bin marked "snouts." He pulled one out, grinned, and peered at me through the still-attached eye holes asking "you want this?" I politely declined, but made note of where I'd go to get my Halloween costume this year.

Ah, Lee Lee's, without you my bacon wouldn't have nipples.
posted by TungstenChef at 12:31 AM on January 16, 2008 [5 favorites]

How seriously do Italians take their food?
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 12:36 AM on January 16, 2008

posted by wemayfreeze at 12:38 AM on January 16, 2008

Wait, you can cure pig cheek? And here I was thinking I'd have to suffer the rest of my life!

From . . . from pig cheek.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:50 AM on January 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

How seriously do Italians take their food?

From "really seriously", to "it's fuel", spanning the whole range.
Actually, once established that Italian food is the best in the Solar System, the conversation gets rather boring.
posted by _dario at 1:32 AM on January 16, 2008

Sincere apologies for the self-link, but ... guanciale. *moan*
posted by chuq at 2:17 AM on January 16, 2008

I went to Amatrice this past summer for the Amatriciana Festival*. Yum. Five bucks gets you a heaping serving of Amatriciana balanced precariously on a disposable plate which you gobble down furiously, watching the old folks do the polka in the old town square.

Per the epicurious recipe linked, I've never seen vinegar used in Amatricianab, but everyone has their own variation of things.

*To add a (tongue in cheek) additional datapoint to _dario's excellent answer, these small festivals celebrating the local dish or wine are called sagra, which can mean either 'Town Festival' or 'Solomn seremony of consecration'. :)
posted by romakimmy at 4:03 AM on January 16, 2008

I have been making this a few times a month with pancetta and its pretty great. I will have to make a trip down to salumeria biellese see if I can try the real thing.
posted by shothotbot at 5:32 AM on January 16, 2008

If it's "all about the guanciale", you'd think the NYT would at least get its etyms right...: "Guanciale, which means pillow, a description of its shape, has [...]"

erm, no. Guancia = cheek. Pillows are/were called guanciali, either because you lay your cheeks on them, or because it is they who are shaped like like cheeks - but certainly not th'other way 'round.
posted by progosk at 6:17 AM on January 16, 2008

But most cookbooks never mention guanciale. Even if they did, where would the American cook find it?

This is one reason I feel so lucky to be involved in Slow Food stuff: tasting the richness that is Dominic's home-cured guanciale.
posted by Miko at 6:34 AM on January 16, 2008

Oh, and: "mezzemani"? That would be a half-handed attempt at mezzemaniche, (meaning half- (or short) sleeves).

On the whole, this article reads like a pretty rambling ("indeed, it should be called bucatini alla matriciana, [...] the exact meaning of [which] is open to question, [though it's perhaps] the same as amatriciana, with the absence of the initial “a” because of a Roman dialect") and misguided (Gusto for an amatriciana?! Surely shome mishtake...) plug for a couple of porkmeat importers.
posted by progosk at 6:40 AM on January 16, 2008

Josh Friedland's account (with photos) of his attempt at home-made guanciale.
posted by progosk at 7:02 AM on January 16, 2008

I am a huge fan of the Babbo recipe for Bucatini All'amatriciana. The guanciale adds an incredible 'porkiness' that is lovely with the pecorino romano.
posted by pziemba at 7:25 AM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Just another southern vs northern recipe debate.
posted by wfc123 at 9:34 AM on January 16, 2008

I smuggled home some spicy Calabrese guanciale when I came back from Italy last summer. It was hard to keep a straight face when customs asked me if I was carrying any sausages or counterfeit purses.

My favorite pace to eat bucatini all'amatriciana is at Osteria Giulio Pane e Ojo in the Porta Romana neighborhood of Milan, right down the street from my old apartment.
posted by charlesv at 9:59 AM on January 16, 2008


I'm hungry and grossed out at the same time, for some reason.

also, I miss Italy.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:53 AM on January 16, 2008

“At Babbo, we use our homemade guanciale, or cured pig jowls, with its distinct pork flavor, to achieve the same rich taste that comforted the shepherds of old.”

Man, I’d like to comfort a shepherd. That’d be sweet.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:42 PM on January 16, 2008

Yeah, just try to find guanciale in the D.C. area. Called six places today, retail and wholesale both. Niente. grumble grumble grumble
posted by the sobsister at 6:34 PM on January 16, 2008

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