What is Rome’s Pasta alla Gricia?
While most visitors to Rome will already be familiar with carbonara, amatriciana and cacio e pepe, many have never heard of the fourth member of the Roman pasta quartet, pasta alla gricia. In the latest episode of our Foodie Sisters video series, Local Aromas founders Valeria and Benedetta tell you all you need to know about this delicious local dish and help to spread the word about this (wrongly) neglected stalwart of Roman cuisine.
While pasta alla gricia is not as well-known as its three cousins, in actual fact it forms the basis of each of them. The name gricia comes from its place of birth, a small town called Grisciano located in the Lazio countryside. Centuries ago the people of these small shepherd villages were restricted to using local, cheap, abundant ingredients to cook hearty, nutritious meals. Pecorino romano sheep cheese and guanciale were in steady supply and thus formed the basis of many simple yet delicious recipes. In the case of pasta alla gricia, the strips of guanciale are cooked until the fat has rendered and they have become crunchy. It is then combined with grated pecorino, cracked black pepper and a dash of pasta water to bind everything together with the pasta, in this case usually rigatoni or spaghetti (to make gricia at home get the full recipe here).
To explain how the humble gricia is the forefather of other Roman dishes consider that simply adding tomatoes and a hint of chili transforms gricia into pasta all’amatriciana (in fact gricia is sometimes referred to as an amatriciana bianca, a white amatriciana), including beaten eggs creates a Roman carbonara, and removing the guanciale and adding extra pepper will give you cacio e pepe. Four very different dishes which nevertheless are based on the same flavorful, local ingredients.
Although it sounds simple, to obtain a good gricia the ingredients should be perfectly balanced to allow each of the individual elements to shine through. As with each of the Roman pastas, the robust flavors should ideally be paired with a good, local, red wine. So order a gricia and a large glass of Cesanese and simply devour to savor this historic recipe of cucina romana.
Join our 4 Roman Pastas Tasting Tour in Rome to explore, taste and learn about pasta alla gricia, pasta all’amatriciana, pasta alla carbonara, and pasta cacio e pepe.