Guanciale is bacon made from the jowl of the pig. It has a much more intense, piggy flavour than bacon. It has a high fat content and is delicious. You can eat it raw from the fridge, like lardo, or wrap things in it and bake them.
It’s a good way to take your cooking up a notch. Carbonara, for example, should be made with guanciale. I always use the recipe for carbonara as a kind of manifesto because there’s no bacon, no parmesan, no cream and no extra egg yolks; all the things British people think you put in, but you don’t. The key tastes are pepper, pecorino romano and the porky guanciale.
I fry the guanciale in quite a hot dry pan so it’s well browned but not yet crisp all the way through. In a metal bowl, beat together a whole egg per person, quite a lot of pecorino romano and a lot of black pepper. When the pasta is al dente, lift it out of the water, drain it, then toss it in the bacon and the fat in the hot pan. Add the lot to the pecorino and eggs and black pepper with a little water and stir it. It should thicken to the texture of cream. If it doesn’t, put the metal bowl with the pasta and egg mix over the hot pasta water and thicken it up a bit – but don’t let it scramble.