Guanciale, the magical Roman bacon Home
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This godsent Italian pig neck bacon
imparts a unique flavor to any dish or sauce, but can be hard to find even in Italy.
Italians do not know about guanciale. Italy is a large country and
regions are very different from one another. People from the North will
cook Spaghetti all'amatriciana, a dish from the center, with pancetta
and parmigiano. They might even give you a funny look if you mention
they should have used guanciale and peccorino. But this unique bacon
is nothing like pancetta. It gives an enormous amount of porky flavour
to the sauces and your guests will wonder where it comes from as they
hand their plates for more.
Every single time I've spoken about guanciale to Italians who knew
about it, people told me how they used it with an immense smile. "Oh me I just cut some thin slices and put it over the salad with croutons and hard boiled eggs" a lady in Bologna told me, "but
the best is to cut it in minuscule dices, fry them with no extra fat
and them add beaten eggs. The very best omelette you can make". And
so on. You can hit your 'Mama's extra authentic cookbook' all you want,
they will probably not mention it because the fact is, you can't find guanciale outside Italy. This restaurant in New York City claims to make their own guanciale, complimenti if it's true.
And even in Italy, it is widely available only in some regions.
Elsewhere people will assume, since you are a tourist, you just mixed
up two words. If you're Italian, the would think it's a dialectal name
for pancetta. But it's not.
Guanciale is made from pork cheeks (very fat porks apparently).
The meat is washed in wine, seasoned and left in a stone niche for 40
days to marinate. After that they hang it to dry and presto - you can
eat it.You don't really eat raw guanciale - it is a highly savory piece
of white pig fat better used for cooking. You melt it down in a
saucepan and use the fat to fry further ingredients who will become
infused with this amazing taste. It is not part of any diet I've come
across, but even a small quantity will get you the taste, so it's worth
trying even if you are dieting.
On the picture above you can see a collection of 3 types of guanciale hanging from the ceiling at Volpetti's in Rome,
a good place to buy guanciale. They don't cost much and you can
store them in the fridge for many months, using only bits at a time. If
the end becomes tainted, all you need is cut a slice and disregard it
and the rest will be perfect.
To buy guanciale, try any food shop or salumeria in Rome, its place of origin. Ask for guanciale (gwantshiaaaaaleh) or Barbozzo,
a cousin from Umbria, barbaglia or barbagia, or even goletta made from the meat below the jaw that unites both jowls. If they don't know what it is, write it down. If
they still don't know or show some pancetta or coppa, saying it's the
same, thank them and move on. They don't have it. I visited a number of
shops in Bologna but managed to track down two magnificent specimen in
a large salumeria. Please let me know if you see them elsewhere and
send me a picture if you can.
Copyright FXcuisine 2013 - all rights reserved.
If you do this recipe at home please let me know how it worked for you by submitting a comment or send me a picture if you can. Thanks!