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Guanciale - What is it and how do I cook with it?

Guanciale - What is it and how do I cook with it?

What is Guanciale? It is pronounced "Gwan-Chee-All-A" and is cured pork jowl. The jowl of the hog is one of the most sought after cuts due to the richness and fattiness of the muscle. Once it is salted, cured, and dried, it becomes an incredible ingredient with amazing umami flavor that is used in Italian cuisine.  Chances are that you haven't even heard of this delicacy, but trust me, you need to know all about it!

The closest thing to Guanciale is probably Pancetta, but there is a very distinct difference between the two products.  Guanciale has both a richer flavor profile as well as a softer texture than its cousin Pancetta. If you like Pancetta, you are going to love guanciale. 

It is a specialty of Central Italy, specifically the regions of Umbria and Lazzio. It is traditionally made by rubbing the jowls with sea salt, ground black pepper, herbs, spices, and some form of sodium nitrate. We make ours with a proprietary blend of sea salt, sugar, ground black pepper and cultured celery juice powder. We find that by adding herbs and spices that it actually hinders the rich, fatty, unctuous and porky flavor that we are seeking with the cured jowl. It is cured under refrigeration for ten days, rinsed, and then hung in our climate controlled drying rooms for approximately 3 months. Once it has lost 30% of its original weight and reaches the water activity that we are looking for, we vacuum seal it and it has a shelf life refrigerated for up to one year.

The two most common uses for Guanciale are to dice it and cook it down to start two different pasta sauces, Carbonara and Amatriciana. Pasta alla Amatriciana has only a few ingredients, guanciale, pecorino cheese, white wine, San Marzano tomatoes, and chili pepper flakes. Carbonara contains only guanciale, pecorino cheese, pasta water and egg. At our new il porcellino pasta dinner concept available in the evenings at our Tennyson Street location, we make it slightly differently. We render down the guanciale, then add a pecorino broth, a touch of cream, fresh peas, house made Casarecce pasta, a soft poached egg and some crispy pork belly on top of the dish. Stop by and give it a try, I think that you will absolutely love it!!!

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