Pasta alla Pecorara | Roman Ricotta & Guanciale Pasta Recipe
This Roman pasta dish recipe uses all of the same ingredients as a classic carbonara, with one major exception: it substitutes ricotta cheese in place of eggs. Otherwise, the preparation of the sauce with crispy guanciale meat and pecorino cheese is basically the same. Simple and easy to make, you might find that you prefer this variation to the better-known carbonara!
The Secret to Making an Amazing Pasta alla Pecorara
In a way, Pasta alla Pecorara is easier to make than a carbonara, because there’s no risk whatsoever of accidentally overcooking the eggs in a hot pan.
The challenge here isn’t preparing the ricotta, but finding an excellent ricotta. For most people, this means making it at home. In the US, for instance, no stores sell anything close to good ricotta (it’s not even ricotta, by definition). In our experience, even specialty Italian markets sell a fake substitute, we’re sorry to report. The popular lemon juice or vinegar method for making “homemade ricotta,” while definitely better than anything store-bought, is still not the real deal.
To have a Pasta alla Pecorara that will make you question ever eating carbonara again, you’ll likely need to make your own ricotta in the traditional Italian way. Check out our guide on how to do it here! If you can’t make the cheese yourself, try to find the best quality ricotta you can and perhaps use a little extra pecorino to add some more flavor.
Watch the Pasta Grammar video where we make Pasta alla Pecorara here:
PASTA ALLA PECORARA RECIPE
Makes: 2 servings
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
For this recipe, you will need:
2.5 oz. (70g) guanciale, skin trimmed and chopped into small cubes or strips
5.5 oz. (160g) rigatoni pasta
4.5 oz. (130g) ricotta
2 oz. (55g) grated pecorino cheese, or to taste
Fresh black pepper
Put a large pot of water on to boil and salt it generously. While the water comes up to temp, place the cubed guanciale into a large pan over medium heat. Sauté until they release plenty of fat and start to become crispy. Turn off the heat. If you like, you can remove and set aside some pieces of guanciale for topping later.
When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the rigatoni and cook as directed or until al dente to your taste. While the pasta boils, mix the ricotta and pecorino cheese with plenty of black pepper in a large mixing bowl. Stir in a few spoonfuls of pasta water until you achieve a smooth, creamy consistency. Taste the mixture and add more pecorino, if desired.
When the pasta is ready, turn the guanciale heat back on and transfer the pasta into the pan using a slotted spoon. Stir the pasta until it is well-coated in the guanciale fat. Transfer the contents of the pan into the ricotta bowl and mix thoroughly. If necessary, you can thin the ricotta sauce by adding a few more spoonfuls of pasta water.
Serve immediately, topped with any extra pieces of guanciale you set aside earlier.
Want to compare this dish to a classic carbonara? Check out our authentic recipe here! It's not really a fair comparison without using an excellent ricotta, which you can learn how to make yourself with our full guide here.