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Guanciale?

Yes, I did use Google (it's pig jowl), but I'm still intimidated. In asparagus season I sometimes make a pasta dish of bacon, shallots, and asparagus browned in a cast iron pan, with a sprinkling of red pepper flakes and Parmesan. Today my SO showed up with this hunk of flesh and I'm not sure how to proceed. I gather that it isn't smoked, so that's going to alter the taste, right? Also, should I just slice it? Dice it? Any help would be great. (This is a recipe I usually make without even thinking. Now, I have to think!)

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  1. Oh - you are so lucky. The first dish I would make is Amatriciana - I'm a fan of the recipe posted in the NYT w/n the last year. But, yes, I'd cube it. I think it has an earthy/farmier taste than bacon, if that makes any sense.

    1. First, do a little happy dance.
      It will go well with your asparagus/shallot thing. Dice the guanciale, and render it down a lot. It's much better crispy, even if you don't prefer your bacon that way. Guanciale is fatter and saltier than bacon. And a little goes a long way.
      I like it with collards and polenta,
      and in Amatriciana red sauce for pasta (Batali has a good recipe - I googled http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9123786/ )

      1. After you make the Amatriciana, the second thing should be a classic Carbonara sauce. (also Mario's recipe....) It's much better w/ guanciale than w/ pancetta or bacon. Save the fat after you render it, because that's a vital contributor to the sauce's unctuousness (I hate that word, but in this case, it's very apt.) Good on Mr. gc; you'll thank him eventually... adam

        1. You have no idea how jealous I am. I love it as the others have reported but also sliced thinly and wrapped around bundles of new asparagus and roasted in the oven.

          1. I obviously have some learning to do. I cooked the cubes until they were browned on the outside but still scarily white inside. So then I cut the cubes in half and cooked them into little croutons of doom. Some of them were wonderfully crispy, others a little chewy.

            I still have enough make Amatriciana and am looking forward to trying again. It was quite a large piece for $4.

            Thanks, everyone.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Glencora

              It keeps in the freezer very well, so you can take a little time between rich delicious pork fat meals.
              Unlike pancetta where I'm much lazier about the size of the cubes, I go for a 1/4" dice with guanciale, so it can really really render.

              1. re: pitu

                Good to know. Thanks. My cubes were definitely too big the first time, then.

              2. re: Glencora

                In order of delicious for amatriciana, carbonara, etc. it goes guanciale, then pancetta then good american bacon. Def. not for the fat phobes though.