Pasta alla Gricia; Recipe from Rome

Pasta alla Gricia; Recipe from Rome

Pasta alla Gricia is a Roman recipe of very ancient origins. In fact, according to food historians, this recipe was invented around 400 AD and was a typical dish served in the taverns of Ancient Rome. It’s also often referred to as white Amatriciana!

pasta alla gricia recipe

When in Rome, the four pasta dishes that you are most likely to find in any trattoria or osteria (tavern) are Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe, Amatriciana and alla Gricia. Interestingly, the first 3 have become very well-known and popular in other countries too. The last recipe, pasta alla Gricia, has somehow escaped the culinary limelight. This is surprising given it’s actually the oldest of these Roman pasta recipes and considered to be the original recipe from which the other 3 recipes developed. Think about it! Add some eggs to this dish and you have a carbonara. Add tomatoes and you have amatriciana. Take away the guanciale and it becomes cacio e pepe!

pasta alla gricia recipe

A little pasta alla Gricia history.

Like other classical Italian recipes, the exact origins alla gricia are uncertain. Some believe that the recipe originally came from a town called Griciano, from where its popularity spread to Rome and the rest of Lazio. The dish is believed to have started as a meal eaten by the shepherds of the area as it was made from pasta, cheese and cured pork; all things that the shepherds could carry around with them for days as they grazed their sheep.

ingredients for pasta alla gricia recipe

Interestingly, Griciano is not far from Amatrice, another town that has become well-known for its much-loved pasta recipe invention, l’amatriciana. However, pasta alla gricia pre-dates l’amatriciana by centuries because tomatoes weren’t used in the Italian kitchen until 1800s.

small slices of guanciale/ pork jowl in frying pan

Invented by bakers!

Another theory on the origins of pasta alla gricia is that this dish was invented by bakers who came from Germany or Switzerland, especially from the canton of Grisons. The Romans called these people ‘grigioni’.  The grigioni were specialized in bread-making and were,  in fact, the only bakers in Rome to be called ‘maestri dell’arte bianca’ (white art masters). Food legend says that the Grigioni spent most of their time in the shops where they worked, ate and slept. Over time, they are believed to have turned to pork curing. And, one of the meals that they prepared was ‘alla gricia’.

cooked guanciale/pork jowl slices in frying pan

Making pasta alla Gricia.

The most important step to cooking an authentic Roman pasta alla gricia is using the right ingredients, of which there are very few. In fact, apart from guanciale (cured pig cheek/jowl) and Pecorino Romano this recipe only needs spaghetti (or rigatoni) and black pepper. Yes that’s it!

cooked spaghetti and guanciale in frying pan

The thing that makes pasta alla Gricia special is the guanciale. Traditionally, this is rubbed with salt, pepper and spices and then hung for at least three weeks before being sold. It has a stronger taste than pancetta. It’s also quite fatty and its rendered fat is what flavours this dish. In fact, guanciale rather than pancetta is the preferred ingredient for both amatriciana  and carbonara too. In pasta alla gricia, it really is the star ingredient.

pasta alla gricia recipe

Despite the simplicity of the ingredients, pasta alla Gricia is super tasty. Of course, you could use Parmesan and pancetta instead but it won’t taste the same! Guanciale has a unique, intense flavor, and Pecorino adds a slightly salty, sharp back note. The combination of these two flavours are what make this dish.

pasta alla gricia recipe

Other ingredients?

Some Italians make pasta alla Gricia with a little peperoncino (red chili pepper). But, since chili peppers came to Italy from South America (like tomatoes), peperoncino isn’t in the original recipe. Nor are onions, garlic or any herbs. Before being tempted to add any other ingredients, I would suggest trying this recipe with just the authentic ingredients. I’m sure that you’ll love it as much as the Romans do!

pasta alla gricia recipe

If you make this pasta alla Gricia recipe, I’d love to hear how it turns out and if you liked it. So, please leave a comment here on the blog or on The Pasta Project Facebook page.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Buon appetito!

Have you ever cooked the other 3 classic Roman recipes mentioned above? If not take a look at the recipes.

  1. Amatriciana
  2. Cacio e Pepe
  3. Carbonara

Save this recipe for later?

If you want to save this recipe for later, you can print it, bookmark this page or save it to Pinterest.

pasta alla gricia

5 from 20 votes
pasta alla gricia recipe
Pasta alla Gricia
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
30 mins

This very quick and easy traditional classic Roman pasta recipe is made with very few ingredients but is so delicious you're bound to love it as much as the Romans do!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Central Italy, Italian, Rome & Lazio
Keyword: alla Gricia, guanciale, Italian food, pasta recipe, pecorino, Roman cuisine
Servings: 4
Author: Jacqueline De Bono
  • 400 g spaghetti or rigatoni (14 oz) I used spaghetti di Gragnano from Lidl's Italiamo range.
  • 200 g guanciale cured pork jowl (7oz)
  • 150 g pecorino grated (5 oz)
  • salt for pasta
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  1. Cut the guanciale into strips. Grate the pecorino 

  2. Heat a frying pan or iron skillet and fry the guanciale in the olive oil until crisp and golden. Some people prefer not to let it get crispy as they like the fat to be soft. I prefer it crispy

  3. Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Add salt once it starts to boil and bring to the boil again.

  4. Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet. When the pasta is nearly cooked take a little water from the pot and add it a little at a time to the guanciale and stir over a low heat until the pasta is ready. This starchy water combines with the fat to form the ‘sauce’ for the pasta. Otherwise it will be too dry.

  5. Before draining the pasta, save some more of the pasta cooking water. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and quickly add it to the frying pan together with the pork jowl mix everything together well and cook for a minute over a medium heat. 

  6. Remove from the heat, add half the grated Pecorino cheese and some ground black pepper. Mix well and serve immediately with a sprinkling of the rest of the grated pecorino.

Recipe Notes

This recipe is traditionally made with spaghetti or rigatoni.

Pin for Later.

Spaghetti alla Gricia


pasta alla Gricia

Want to know more about my life in Italy? Go to the homepage and subscribe to my newsletter. New subscribers get a free recipe e-book too!

You May Also Like


  • Trackback: 14 Dishes You Have to Try in Rome | Rome Food Guide
  • Trackback: 14 Dishes You Have to Try in Rome – Trending VIRAL STORIES & NEWS, CELEB, SPORT, TRAVEL AND MORE FEED
  • Avatar
    November 11, 2019 2:29 am

    Can’t find guanciale so took American salt pork sliced it and them soaked in water for 30 minutes. Not overly salty, not smoked, and very inexpensive. Less than s dollar a pound.
    Excellent recipe, so simple, so genuine.

  • Avatar
    Stephanie Simmons
    September 26, 2018 11:20 pm

    This sounds incredibly delicious! There’s nothing like a warm plate of pasta in this cold fall weather!

  • Avatar
    September 24, 2018 8:41 am

    Yummy this sounds fantastic. You always have the best sounding pasta recipes! I know where to go when I’m craving pasta. I can’t wait to try some of your recipes!

    • Jacqui
      September 24, 2018 3:56 pm

      Aw thanks so much April! You know it’s my goal to be the go-to site when people are looking for pasta recipes! So, you just made my day!

  • Avatar
    September 22, 2018 2:05 am

    I love reading the history of dishes on your blog posts. Definitely pinning this pasta alla gricia for later. I need to start making more Italian dishes! 🙂

    • Jacqui
      September 23, 2018 9:39 am

      Thank you Sharon! I love sharing the history of these pasta dishes or the ingredients! So, I’m really happy visitors find the food history interesting! I’m sure you’ll love this classic Roman dish! And yes, more Italian food is a good thing!

  • Avatar
    Catherine E. Brown
    September 21, 2018 7:59 pm

    I love learning the history behind these ingredients… really makes the dish come alive, so thanks for including that These flavors sound fantastic together!

    • Jacqui
      September 24, 2018 4:00 pm

      Grazie Catherine! I also love the history behind recipes and ingredients and of course Italy is so rich in food history. Every plate has a story!

  • Avatar
    September 21, 2018 2:04 pm

    Count me as Ilone if the people who have never heard of pasta all’s gricia, but it like oks like everything I love in a pasta. Definitely plan on changing that soon!

  • Avatar
    Stine Mari
    September 21, 2018 11:45 am

    What a fascinating history. I haven’t given food in ancient times that much thought before, but now I think that it wasn’t that bad! This definitely look like something I could eat right now.

  • Avatar
    Chef Mireille
    September 20, 2018 8:12 pm

    love reading all the historical notes you give us and the pasta looks absolutely delicious!

  • Avatar
    Julie @ Running in a Skirt
    September 19, 2018 4:42 pm

    Sometimes simple recipes are the best! What a great use of tasty flavors in this pasta alla gricia dish
    ! Can’t wait to try.

  • Avatar
    Alisa Infanti
    September 19, 2018 1:57 pm

    The history to this recipe is fascinating to me. It does make you wonder why this recipe has not caught on like the others. I am going to give this a try for sure!

  • Avatar
    September 19, 2018 9:05 am

    I’ve got to find some guanciale! I love learning about the history of recipes – it’s so fascinating how they come about. Delicious – so simple and just perfect!

  • Avatar
    Adriana Lopez Martin
    September 19, 2018 6:24 am

    Best pasta ever with bacon and cheese sign me up! That bacon looks perfectly crispy, and I can not imagine how good the smell is. I need a bowl of this pasta!!!

  • Avatar
    September 19, 2018 2:14 am

    Well, as the story goes…when in Rome…eat like the Romans!! I am such a pasta lover, and visiting Italy (especially Tuscany) is on my wish list. I would be in heaven with the cuisine. Pour me a glass of wine and call it dinner.

  • Avatar
    Honey @ The Girl Next Shore
    September 18, 2018 11:45 pm

    I really love how simple this dish is yet so satisfying!

  • Avatar
    September 18, 2018 10:05 pm

    Interesting history on Pasta Alla Gricia. I love simple but delicious recipes. It looks easy and perfect for cooking dinner after a busy day.

  • Avatar
    Shernell P Cooke
    September 18, 2018 6:09 pm

    I love a good pasta dish anytime.

  • Avatar
    September 18, 2018 4:57 pm

    I always love the detailed history on your recipes, and this one just looks divine!

  • Avatar
    September 18, 2018 3:53 pm

    It really is fascinating, the food history you’ve presented. The only one that is very popular near me is carbonara. Which I absolutely love! I must try this alla gricia now too! Yum!

  • Avatar
    September 18, 2018 4:10 am

    I love dishes like this! Few ingredients which really allows for the their flavours to really shine.

    • Jacqui
      September 18, 2018 8:18 am

      I love dishes like this too Courtney! Many Italian recipes require just a few ingredients but taste so good! In fact that’s very characteristic of Italian cuisine! Thanks for your comment!

  • Avatar
    Kelly Anthony
    September 17, 2018 10:38 pm

    This pasta dish is so simple but bursting with flavor. I love when I can get a little taste of Rome in my own home.

    • Jacqui
      September 18, 2018 8:19 am

      Thanks for your comment Kelly! Yes this dish is a very easy way to bring classic Roman cuisine to you kitchen!

Leave a Reply