Guanciale (cured pork cheek)

Guanciale (cured pork cheek)

Nuovo Mondo
Alan Benson

Guanciale has a fat content between lardo and pancetta. It is far easier and less time consuming to make than pancetta. Guanciale is so versatile: it works well with scallops and fruits like peach, fig and melon. It is also great to use as part of a base with aromatic vegetables in a sauce or soup. It is essential for pasta matriciana.


Quantity Ingredient
300g table salt
300g caster sugar
5 garlic cloves, smashed
30g black pepper, lightly crushed
1/2 thyme, stems and all, chopped
1/2 tsp sodium nitrate
2 large pork cheeks, about 500 g each


  1. Place all the ingredients except the pork cheeks in a large bowl and mix well to combine. Put a layer of the cure mixture on the bottom of a deep baking tray and arrange the pork on top, skin side down. Cover with the remaining cure. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4–5 days – the cure will go to liquid after one day; this is fine as the cheek still cures.
  2. When cured, rinse the pork under cold water and pat dry.
  3. At the end of each cheek, use a sharp knife to pierce a small hole in the flesh and use some kitchen string to thread through so that you can securely hang the pork.
  4. Hang the guanciale for 7–10 days in a cool, humid place until very firm to the touch. Remove the dry and tough outer skin and slice by hand or use a meat slicer – enjoy with pickles and bread.


  • Imagine this: I am conducting a cooking demonstration in the Hobart Auditorium with the tasmanian symphony orchestra. They have just finished performing the theme from The godfather with a piano accordion and all.

    I then present the conductor with … a pig’s head (a horse’s head not being available).

    I then explain that the pig’s cheeks, cured with salt, become guanciale and proceed to demonstrate a spaghetti matriciana. After much banter, the auditorium returns to silence. I slice the guanciale and put the pan on the flame. Then I throw in the sliced guanciale – peppery, salty, fragrant. As the slices hit the pan (with a little oil), an explosion of fragrance literally travels through the auditorium, just like sound!

    I will never forget the 1200 audience members responding with a uniform sigh of collective pleasure. It was a spectacular and memorable experience.
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