Carbonara. Cacio e Pepe. Amatriciana.  Gricia.   If you spend any length of time in Roma, you will inevitably run across these dishes with regularity.  They are considered by locals and tourists alike to be the quintessential pasta dishes of Rome.  In fact, many a debate can be heard in Trattorie throughout the city about where one can find the “best” or most “authentic” versions of each dish and in fact, any consensus will likely not all be from the same place. 
The interesting fact that links these four pastas is that they are essentially all made from the same ingredients.  By omitting 1 ingredient or adding 1 ingredient, you create another dish.  For example, Gricia is essentially Amatriciana minus the tomato.  Cacio e Pepe is basically Carbonara minus the egg and guanciale. Point is, they are all related “mother” pastas. 

~ This is Papardelle alla Gricia that I had for lunch once at Harry’s Bar in Venezia ~

Pasta Alla Gricia

1 pound pasta (I prefer long pasta, but my son begged for Farfalle) 
4oz. diced pancetta (Guanciale is better if you can find it) 
1/2 sweet vidalia onion chopped 
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano
Reserved Pasta Water 

It can’t be more simple than this.  The entire dish is made in the time it takes to cook the pasta so not only is this delicious, but it’s easy to make. 

~ Step 1: Sweating the onions and pancetta in a little extra virgin olive oil ~

Render the onions and the pancetta in a bit of extra virgin olive oil.  You don’t need too much because the meat will render its fat;  just enough to keep it from sticking initially.  Add salt and pepper to taste and when the onions have softened, remove from the heat until the pasta is finished cooking.  

~ The famous “Bar Harico” in Venezia.  Would this be considered a selfie? ~

When the pasta is al dente,  reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta to the pan with the onions and pancetta.  Return to heat and stir through.  Then sprinkle the pecorino over the pasta. Try to be as uniform as possible so the cheese isn’t all in one spot.  The next step is the key to creating a “creamy” sauce.  

With the pan on medium low heat,  drizzle in the pasta water and stir continuously until the sauce comes together in an almost creamy like consistency.  This occurs as the water melts the cheese and the starch in the water binds everything together.  If you don’t stir and go slowly, you might end up with cheese clumps.  This isn’t difficult so don’t be intimidated. For the time and the ingredients involved, it’s amazing this dish has the flavor it does.

~ The Chef’s Plate: You can see the pasta glistening. That’s the “creamy effect” you’re looking for ~


Mangia!

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