Pasta alla Gricia is the simplest and the easiest of Rome's pastas. It's dressed with rendered guanciale (cured pork cheeks), a little garlic, black pepper, and grated Pecorino cheese, all mixed with a little cooking water to form a sauce that naps the pasta perfectly. —Sara Jenkins
4 to 6 ounces
guanciale, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
cloves garlic, smashed
Crushed black pepper
rigatoni or other short stubby hollow pasta
grated Pecorino Romano
In a sauté pan over low heat, render the guanciale in the olive oil. Put a pot of water on to a boil for the pasta.
When the guanciale has almost rendered, add the cloves of garlic and let them cook slowly, until slightly golden and cooked through and soft. Add the black peppercorns and toast briefly in the fat. Turn off the heat.
When the water comes to a boil, salt it with 3 tablespoons of salt (slightly less than normal as the guanciale and the Pecorino are quite salty already). Add the pasta.
When the pasta is about halfway done, turn the heat back up on the guanciale and add 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta cooking water to the pan. Simmer and reduce, stirring with a wooden spoon and shaking the pan to get the fat and water emulsified.
When the water has reduced by about 3/4, the pasta should be cooked. Toss the pasta with the sauce, add the Pecorino, and toss again. Serve and eat immediately.