Guanciale | Definition, Pasta, Pancetta, Prosciutto, & Bacon (2024)

guanciale, specialty bacon product that originated in central Italy.

Guanciale is made from the single piece of meat that lies between the throat and the cheek, or jowl (Italian guancia), of the pig. As with many Italian cured meats, its history goes back many centuries, and curing methods today are still based on traditional recipes. The meat is covered in a mixture of salt, pepper, sugar, and spices and dry-cured for a month. It is then hung for another month before it is ready to be used. It differs from prosciutto in that the latter is cut from the hind leg of a pig and is air-dried for much longer, usually as long as a year. Although it is more similar to pancetta, the latter is taken from the belly of the pig. The flavours of both prosciutto and pancetta are mild compared with guanciale, which is typically used in small quantities because of its strong aroma.

Guanciale | Definition, Pasta, Pancetta, Prosciutto, & Bacon (2)

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Guanciale is the bacon featured in the classic Italian pasta dishes pasta alla carbonara and pasta all’amatriciana, although many people mistakenly believe that pancetta has always been used. Guanciale is a fatty bacon, but the fat renders down as the meat cooks.

Today guanciale is produced in many areas of Italy, and each regional variation has its own character. Guanciale from Calabria tends to be spicy and fiery, whereas guanciale from Marche is sometimes lightly smoked. Tuscan and Umbrian guanciale is more mellow and aromatic. Guanciale has a particular affinity with fish, various legumes, and dark green vegetables.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the importation of guanciale and other cured meats from Italy from the 1970s until 2013, concerned that they might carry swine vesicular disease. During that period, artisanal producers in Canada and the United States, many of Italian descent, introduced domestically produced salumi to the market, and these remain available alongside imported goods.

Liz Franklin Gregory Lewis McNamee

Guanciale | Definition, Pasta, Pancetta, Prosciutto, & Bacon (2024)


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