I haven't tried guanciale, haven't even seen it here in Albuquerque.... although the pork jowls may be available at a specialty mexican/new mexican grocery store. I think it's a necessity for a special bucatini all'Amatriciana -
Here's one from Ristorante Babbo:
While most pork bacon products are taken from the belly of a pig, Guanciale is made by drying the meat from a hog's jowls. Though the resulting meat is leaner than traditional pork pieces, it has a noticeably richer flavor. It is this richness, combined with a delicate porkiness, that more than merits the meat's three-week drying period. Making guanciale may require a little more planning than simply buying good-quality bacon or pancetta, but its abundance of flavor distinguishes guanciale from the rest, making every dish that much more succulent. At Babbo, we use our homemade guanciale all over the place, but nowhere is its fullness of flavor and porky richness more celebrated than in our bucatini all'amatriciana.
Makes 2 pounds
½ cup sugar
½ cup kosher salt
10 to 15 whole black peppercorns
4 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
2 pounds hog jowls
1. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, salt, peppercorns and thyme. Coat the hog jowls with the mixture, rubbing gently. Place the jowls in a nonreactive casserole, cover, and refrigerate for 5 to 7 days.
2. Remove the jowls from the casserole and tie a piece of butcher's twine around the middle of each. Hang the jowls in a dry cool place (it should not be warmer than 60ºF.) for a t least 3 weeks. They should be firm and dry, with a slight give. Slice and use like bacon or pancetta.
Mario Batali's bucatini all'Amatriciana -
This dish is one of the most celebrated in Italian cuisine and a favorite here at Babbo. Named for the tiny town of Amatrice, located 100 miles east of Lazio from Abruzzo this dish can be made both with or without tomatoes. Ever since Abbruzzese shepherds begin the tradition of eating this spicy pasta after a day in the chilly mountain air, the cooking process has always begun with the rich smell of a fatty piece of pork bubbling in the pan. At Babbo, we use our homemade guanciale, or cured pig jowls, with its distinct pork flavor, to achieve the same rich taste that comforted the shepherds of old.
¾ pound guanciale, or pancetta, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves
1 red onion, halved and sliced ½-inch thick
1 ½ teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 ½ cups basic tomato sauce
1 pound bucatini
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
Pecorino Romano, for grating
1. Being 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.
2. Place the guanciale slices in a 12- to 14-inch sauté pan in a single layer and cook over medium-low heat until most of the fat has been rendered from the meat, turning occasionally. Remove the meat to a plate lined with paper towels and discard half the fat, leaving enough to coat the garlic, onion and red pepper flakes. Return the guanciale to the pan with the vegetables, and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, or until the onions, garlic and guanciale are light golden brown. Season with salt and pepper, add the tomato sauce, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Cook the bucatini in the boiling water according to the package directions, until al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the simmering sauce. Add the parsley leaves, increase the heat to high and toss to coat. Divide the pasta among four warmed pasta bowls. Top with freshly grated Pecorino cheese and serve immediately.
BASIC TOMATO SAUCE
Makes 4 cups
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped in 1/4-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved
Salt, to taste
In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot, and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and serve. This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.
I hardly ever eat bacon, watching my saturated fat, but don't feel guilty when I do.
I think it is much less bad for you, in moderation, than eating a lot of high glycemic index carbs, for example.