Shortcut Guanciale

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There is an edge of obsessiveness to carbonara — and I gave in to it completely by starting to make my own guanciale, the cured pig cheek central to most Italian versions of the dish. There’s no real need to; it’s available online, but I was inspired after eating a wonderful meal at Vetri Ristorante in Philadelphia, and buying a cookbook, “Rustic Italian Food,” by its owner, Marc Vetri. He made it sound easy — and it is. It’s also satisfying. Guanciale is generally cured for a week, then hung to dry for about three weeks, which is how I usually make it. A fireplace is perfect. But Mr. Vetri has a version that cures for only three days, then is baked. If you order raw cheeks, they need to be trimmed. You want to end up with a neat, flat slab, roughly an inch and a half thick. The key is to cut off the glands, down to the first level of meat, and all excess fat. Here is Mr. Vetri’s recipe:

Featured in: Pasta Carbonara, An Unlikely Stand In.


  • 1 pork jowl (about 1 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons dextrose powder or 1 1/2 teaspoons superfine sugar (I use the latter)
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon curing salt No. 1(available at
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary


  1. Rinse pork jowl and pat dry. Combine other ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Rub the curing mix on the jowl, then place jowl in a gallon Ziploc bag with the cure evenly spread on top and bottom. Refrigerate for 3 days.
  3. Rinse the jowl and dry it. Roast at 275 degrees for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Source: NY Times Cooking

Another good source on preparing Guanciale is The Hungry Dog Blog

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