The History of Guanciale and 10 Recipes to Explore

The History of Guanciale
and Recipes to Explore

Guanciale, a traditional Italian cured meat product, is a delicacy that has left an indelible mark on Italian cuisine and culinary culture. With its unique flavor profile and role in iconic dishes like Pasta all'Amatriciana and Carbonara, guanciale has a rich history that stretches back centuries.

This article dives into the captivating journey of guanciale, exploring its origins, production methods, culinary significance, and enduring popularity.

Ancient Roots: Origins of Guanciale

The story of guanciale begins in the ancient Roman kitchens, where it was first conceived. The word "guanciale" itself is derived from the Italian word "guancia" meaning cheek, as this cured meat is primarily crafted from pork jowls or cheeks.

The practice of curing meats dates back to the Roman times when preservation methods were crucial to prevent spoilage in the absence of modern refrigeration.

Traditional Production Methods

The creation of guanciale is an intricate process that combines time-honored techniques with the artistry of charcuterie. The steps involved in producing guanciale are:

1. Selection of Pork Jowls

The quality of the pork jowls is paramount in creating exceptional guanciale. The jowls are chosen for their balance of lean meat and delicate marbling, which contributes to the meat's distinctive texture and flavor.

2. Salting

The jowls are generously coated with a mixture of salt, black pepper, and sometimes other seasonings like thyme or rosemary. This initial salting draws out moisture from the meat, aiding in preservation.

3. Curing

After salting, the pork jowls are left to rest in a controlled environment for several weeks. During this time, the flavors intensify as the meat undergoes a slow curing process, resulting in a deep and complex taste.

4. Drying

Once the curing process is complete, the jowls are carefully washed to get rid of the extra salt and spices. They are then hung to dry, allowing the flavors to mature further and the meat to develop its desired texture.

5. Flavor Transformation

As guanciale dries, its flavor profile evolves. The fat becomes silky and translucent, infusing the meat with a rich, buttery taste that distinguishes guanciale from other cured pork products.

Culinary Significance

Guanciale holds a special place in Italian cuisine, particularly in the region of Lazio, where it originated. It plays a starring role in some of Italy's most beloved dishes:

Pasta all'Amatriciana

Perhaps the most iconic use of guanciale is in the pasta dish known as Pasta all'Amatriciana. This simple yet incredibly flavorful dish combines al dente pasta with a sauce made from guanciale, San Marzano tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and Pecorino Romano cheese.

The richness of the guanciale's fat pairs harmoniously with the tartness of the tomatoes and the slight heat from the red pepper flakes.


Another famous dish that owes its decadent taste to guanciale is Carbonara. This creamy pasta dish features a sauce made from eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper, and, of course, crisped guanciale.

The rendered fat from the guanciale combines with the egg and cheese mixture to make a hearty sauce that coats every strand of pasta.

Exploring the Delicious World of Guanciale: 10 Unique Recipes

1.Guanciale and Asparagus Risotto

Risotto is a creamy Italian rice dish known for its comforting flavors. Infuse it with the unique taste of guanciale and the freshness of asparagus for a delightful combination.


  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup diced guanciale
  • 1 cup asparagus tips, blanched
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a large pan, sauté the diced guanciale until it turns crispy. Remove and set aside.
  • Mix the chopped onion in the same pan and sauté until translucent.
  • Mix in the Arborio rice. Now, cook and stir until the grains are lightly toasted.
  • Pour in the white wine and cook until it's mostly absorbed.
  • Mix the broth. Use one ladleful at one time. Continue stirring and make sure each ladleful is absorbed fully before adding more.
  • Once the rice is creamy and cooked al dente, stir in the blanched asparagus, crispy guanciale, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and butter.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, garnished with additional grated cheese and guanciale.

2. Guanciale-Wrapped Grilled Peaches

Combining the sweetness of peaches with the savory notes of guanciale results in a mouthwatering appetizer that balances flavors and textures.


  • Ripe peaches, halved and pitted
  • Thin slices of guanciale
  • Honey
  • Fresh basil leaves


  • Wrap each peach half with a slice of guanciale, securing it with a toothpick.
  • Over medium heat, start preheating a grill or grill pan.
  • Grill the guanciale-wrapped peaches until the guanciale is crispy and the peaches are slightly caramelized.
  • Top with honey and fresh basil leaves before serving.

3. Guanciale-Stuffed Chicken Breast

Elevate a classic chicken breast by incorporating the rich flavors of guanciale into a stuffing.


  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Guanciale, diced and rendered
  • Fresh spinach leaves
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil


  • Preheat the oven to 190°C.
  • In a pan, render the diced guanciale until crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • In the same pan, sauté the minced garlic until fragrant. Throw in some fresh spinach leaves and cook until wilted. Remove from heat and let cool.
  • In a bowl, combine the sautéed spinach, crispy guanciale, and ricotta cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Make a pocket in the chicken breast and put the guanciale and spinach mixture inside.
  • Warm some olive oil in an oven-safe skillet using medium-high heat. Sear the stuffed chicken breasts until golden brown on both sides.
  • Pop the skillet in a preheated oven and bake till you find that the chicken is cooked through.
  • Serve the guanciale-stuffed chicken breasts with your choice of side dishes.

4. Guanciale and Fig Crostini

Create an elegant appetizer that balances the salty richness of guanciale with the sweetness of fresh figs.


  • Baguette, sliced and toasted
  • Thinly sliced guanciale
  • Fresh figs, sliced
  • Goat cheese
  • Honey
  • Fresh thyme leaves


  • Generously put some goat cheese on each toasted baguette slice.
  • Top with a slice of guanciale and a few slices of fresh fig.
  • Decorate with honey and fresh thyme leaves.
  • Put the crostini on a pretty serving dish and enjoy it as an appetizer or snack.

5. Guanciale and Mushroom Pizza

Give your homemade pizza a gourmet twist by adding guanciale and mushrooms for a burst of umami flavor.


  • Pizza dough
  • Tomato sauce
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Thinly sliced guanciale
  • Sautéed mushrooms (such as cremini or shiitake)
  • Fresh arugula
  • Olive oil


  • Start by preheating the oven and a pizza stone (if available) to the highest temperature your oven allows.
  • Then, start rolling the pizza dough out on a floured surface to your desired thickness.
  • Put some tomato sauce on top of the dough. Remember to leave a border towards the end for the crust.
  • Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese over the sauce.
  • Top the pizza with the thinly sliced guanciale and sautéed mushrooms.
  • Put the pizza onto the pizza stone that has been heated previously. You can also put it on a baking sheet. Start baking until the crust is golden, and the cheese is bubbly.
  • Once the pizza is out of the oven, use some olive oil on it and top with fresh arugula.
  • Slice and serve the guanciale and mushroom pizza while it's still hot.

6. Guanciale and Brussels Sprouts Hash

Create a hearty and flavorful side dish by combining the earthy taste of Brussels sprouts with the smoky notes of guanciale.


  • Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • Diced guanciale
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • Garlic, minced
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a large skillet, sauté the diced guanciale until it becomes crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Using the same skillet, throw in some olive oil and sauté the sliced red onion until softened.
  • Add the halved Brussels sprouts and minced garlic. Cook until the sprouts are tender and slightly caramelized.
  • Stir in the crispy guanciale and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the guanciale and Brussels sprouts hash as a delicious side dish.

7. Guanciale-Wrapped Shrimp Skewers

Elevate your seafood game by wrapping succulent shrimp in guanciale and grilling them to perfection.


  • Large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Thin slices of guanciale
  • Lemon zest
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Start by preheating a grill using medium-high heat.
  • Season the shrimp with lemon zest, chopped parsley, salt, and pepper.
  • Wrap each shrimp with a slice of guanciale and secure it with a toothpick.
  • Grill the shrimp skewers until the guanciale is crispy and the shrimp are cooked through.
  • Serve the guanciale-wrapped shrimp skewers as a delectable appetizer or main dish.

8. Guanciale Carbonara-Stuffed Mushrooms

Combine the flavors of two classic dishes, Carbonara and stuffed mushrooms, to create a crowd-pleasing appetizer.


  • Large mushroom caps, cleaned and stems removed
  • Guanciale, diced and rendered
  • Eggs
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • Bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Preheat the oven to 190°C.
  • In a pan, render the diced guanciale until crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • In a bowl, whisk together eggs, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, chopped parsley, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Stir in the crispy guanciale.
  • Fill each mushroom cap with the guanciale and egg mixture.
  • Sprinkle bread crumbs over the stuffed mushrooms.
  • Carefully put the stuffed mushrooms on a sheet and bake until the filling is set and the mushrooms are tender.
  • Serve the guanciale Carbonara-stuffed mushrooms as an irresistible appetizer.

9. Guanciale and Ricotta Gnocchi

Elevate homemade gnocchi with the addition of guanciale and a creamy ricotta sauce.

For the Gnocchi

  • Potato gnocchi
  • Diced guanciale
  • Fresh sage leaves
  • Butter
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese

For the Ricotta Sauce

  • Ricotta cheese
  • Heavy cream
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon zest
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Gnocchi

  • In a skillet, sauté the diced guanciale until crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Using the same skillet, melt some butter and throw in some fresh sage leaves. Cook until the sage leaves become crispy.
  • Toss cooked gnocchi in the sage-infused butter and crispy guanciale.
  • You can now give your guests a taste of the gnocchi. Remember to sprinkle some grated Pecorino Romano cheese on top first.

For the Ricotta Sauce

  • In a saucepan, combine ricotta cheese, heavy cream, grated Parmesan cheese, and lemon zest.
  • Start cooking using low heat. Stir until you find that the sauce is smooth and heated through.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Pour the ricotta sauce over the guanciale and sage gnocchi before serving.

10. Guanciale and Potato Frittata

Create a hearty and satisfying frittata by incorporating guanciale and tender potatoes.


  • Eggs
  • Diced guanciale
  • Cooked potatoes, diced
  • Onion, finely chopped
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Fresh chives, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  • In an oven-safe skillet, sauté the diced guanciale until crispy. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
  • In the same skillet, sauté the chopped onion until translucent.
  • Add the diced cooked potatoes and crispy guanciale to the skillet.
  • In a bowl, whisk together eggs, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, chopped chives, salt, and pepper.
  • Drizzle the egg mixture on top of the potato and guanciale mixture in the skillet.
  • Cook the frittata on the stovetop for a few minutes until the edges are set.
  • Put the skillet in a preheated oven and start baking until the frittata is cooked through and slightly puffed.
  • Slice and serve the guanciale and potato frittata for a hearty breakfast or brunch.


From creamy risottos to elegant crostini, guanciale's bold and distinct flavor elevates a variety of dishes. Its versatility allows it to harmonize with both sweet and savory ingredients, making it a culinary treasure in Italian cuisine.

By exploring these unique guanciale recipes, you can unlock the full potential of this flavorful cured meat and create memorable dining experiences that pay homage to the rich traditions of Italian gastronomy. Check out Supermarket Italy's online grocery store to find the essential ingredients in the recipes mentioned above.

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