This classic Roman pasta dish is simple, delicious, and takes less than 30 minutes to make!
2Tablespoonsextra virgin olive oil
2ouncespecorino romano or parmigiano-reggiano, plus more for serving
1teaspoonfresh cracked pepper, plus more for serving
kosher salt to taste
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.
While the water is coming to a boil, prepare and cook the guanciale. Trim off the skin and cut into roughly 1/2 x 1/2 inch squares. Bring a large dutch oven to medium heat. Add olive oil and guanciale. Cook guanciale until crisp and golden brown, about 7-8 minutes, turning guanciale as needed to evenly cook, and remove from heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove guanciale from dutch oven and set aside. Keep rendered fat in the dutch oven, about 1/4 cup. If fat rendered from pork exceeds this, discard and keep the 1/4 cup in dutch oven .
Once water is boiling, add pasta. Cook until a "hard al dente" (usually 2-3 minutes less than package instructions). Pasta should be cooked but still very firm. While the pasta is cooking, prepare cheese. Finely grate 2 ounces of pecorino romano cheese and set aside. When the pasta is almost done cooking, reserve 3/4 cup of the starchy pasta water and set aside.
Bring reserved fat/oil back to medium high heat in the dutch oven. Add the teaspoon of fresh cracked pepper to the dutch oven and cook for 1 minute, until aromatic and toasted. Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the dutch oven, and swivel around for a few seconds. Add hard al dente pasta to dutch oven and gently toss together for about 1-2 minutes, until the pasta has cooked slightly (should be a true al dente now) and the majority of the pasta water has evaporated. Remove from heat.
Add pecorino to pasta, stirring vigorously (this prevents clumping of cheese) until well combined. The cheese combined with the pasta water and rendered fat should transform into a glossy coating over pasta. You may add additional pasta water if needed, one tablespoon at a time. Taste pasta and ensure it is salted adequately- add more if needed.
Plate the pasta and top with a generous amount of additional fresh cracked pepper and grated pecorino romano. Divide crispy guanciale evenly between plates and place on top of pasta. Serve immediately.
*Guanciale can be found in Italian or European markets, or high-end grocery stores, but if you can't access it, pancetta or even bacon will work in a pinch.