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Carbonara Vs. Pasta Alla Gricia

In Roman cuisine, there are four classic pasta dishes that are well known.

Traditionally, each of these dishes is made from pasta, black pepper, and a type of cheese known as pecorino romano.

Guanciale, which is a cured meat from pork jowl is also present in most of these dishes.

Pasta alla gricia and carbonara are two delicious dishes that are among the classic roman pasta dishes. They are both made from similar ingredients as the others, however there are some differences between both dishes.

In carbonara, eggs are part of the recipe while pasta alla gricia uses mainly the rendered fat from pork to make a creamy sauce that coats the pasta.

These dishes are also prepared using different techniques.

In this post we are going to talk about pasta alla gricia and carbonara as well as the features that differentiate these two special pasta dishes


The carbonara is a more modern pasta dish than the others.

Unlike the other three pasta dishes, cabonara makes use of eggs.

The eggs are used to make the carbonara sauce which is a rich creamy emulsion composed of a mixture of eggs, cheese and black pepper.

A small amount of starchy pasta water also contributes to sauce emulsion which coats the pasta.

Ingredients for Carbonara

Pasta: Cabonara could be made with different types of pasta; Spaghetti, bucatini, fettuccine and linguine are commonly used ones.

Eggs: Whole eggs and egg yolk are both used to make the carbonara sauce.

Cheese: pecorino romano cheese is traditionally used to make carbonara, however, parmesan cheese often used in place of pecorino romano when it is unavailable.

Guanciale: Some recipes use pancetta or bacon in place of guanciale, this can often create slight differences in the flavor profile.

Black pepper

Olive oil

How carbonara is prepared

Water for the pasta is first brought to boil in a large pot. 

Once the water for the pasta reaches rolling boil, the pasta is inserted and left to cook.

At the same time, guanciale is sautéed separately in a pan until it becomes crisp.

The crisp guanciale is taken out of the oil and transferred to a small bowl

In another bowl, the eggs are beaten together with some cheese and pepper.

Once the pasta reaches al dente, it is drained.

The pasta is stirred together with the crisp guanciale, and the egg and cheese emulsion. The mixture tightly adheres to the pasta.

They are often mixed in a bowl or the pasta pot away from direct heat to prevent the egg from curdling.

An easier or faster way to make carbonara pasta is by making use of a pre made carbonara sauce. The sauce can also be found as a condiment in grocery stores.

Pasta alla gricia

Pasta alla gricia is centered around a sauce made from guanciale fat.

The pork jowls are packed with a lot of fat, and the rendered fat from the porks is used to make most of the pasta sauce.

The sauce in pasta alla gricia is an emulsion of rendered pork fat and starchy pasta water

Pecorino romano and black pepper are also added to mixture.

Ingredients for alla gricia

Guanicale: It uses more guanicale than carbonara to make its sauce.

Nutrition may vary from recipe to recipe, but since guanicale is packed with more fats, alla gricia might be higher in calories than cabonara.

Pasta: spaghetti and rigatoni are used for pasta alla gricia.

Black pepper

Percorino romano

Olive oil

How pasta alla gricia is prepared

The dish starts out by rendering the pork fat in a sauce pan.

The crisp guanicale is taken out and transferred to the bowl and the rendered fat is left in the sauce pan  

Following this, the black pepper is added to the rendered fats and also some of the pasta cooking water is added and heated to create an emulsion

The cooked pasta is later added to the silky sauce and the mixture stirred as the sauce coats the pasta.

Guanciale and the cheese are also add to finish up.

Other Roman pasta dishes

The other pasta dishes are also made from similar ingredients as pasta alla gricia and pasta carbonara.

However, here are a few details about what makes them distinct.

Cacio e pepe

This dish is much more simpler to make than the other recipes.

Unlike the others, cacao e pepe isn’t made with gunaciale. However, it makes of use of a larger proportions of the more pecorino romano and black pepper.


Unlike the other dishes, this pasta dish adds tomato to the base ingredients.

The tomatoes added to the mixture brings in a rich tomato flavor.

In conclusion

The four Roman pasta dishes are made using similar ingredients: pasta, pecorino romano, black pepper and sometimes guanciale.

However each of these dishes are distinct from the other. This may be due to a few additional ingredients or different techniques used when preparing the dishes.

Pasta alla gricia sauce is made from rendered fat while the carbonara sauce is made with eggs.

They are both very creamy and delicious pasta recipes.