If you thought pasta needed a sauce, then you probably haven’t been using the best cured meats, the best pasta and the best cheese. A secret is in using some of the cooking water to moisten the pasta as you stir through the guanciale. If you don’t salt the cooking water well, the pasta will taste like rubbish. 






Skill level

Average: 5 (2 votes)


  • 40 g guanciale (cured pig cheek) or pancetta, cut into lardons (see Note)
  • olive oil
  • 100 g spaghetti
  • 20–40 g good hard matured cheese (such as Bruny Island Cheese C2, a good parmesan or pecorino), finely grated


Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Fry the guanciale in a large frying pan, in a little olive oil if need be, to render the fat. There should be narrow bands of meat and a nice slick of fat by the end. Turn off until needed.

Cook spaghetti in plenty of salted water until al dente. 

Use tongs to transfer the spaghetti from the saucepan to the frying pan, which will leave some water on the strands. Keep the water there. 

Toss drained spaghetti (and another 1–2 tablespoons of the reserved cooking water if need be) and the guanciale into the pan. Stir well to make sure the fat and water make a lovely light coating on the pasta. There shouldn’t be so much water that you get any kind of pool of liquid in the bottom of the bowl, nor should the pasta be dry, so adjust a little in the pan.

Serve with grated cheese.


• Guanciale is a cured pig’s cheek, available from good Italian butchers. If not available, use an unsmoked pancetta at a pinch. It doesn’t work with English-style bacon.