Serves 4 to 6
Guanciale is the cheek of the pig, cured with salt and spices and air-dried. If can be hard to find. You can replace it with a good-quality pancetta, which is from the belly of the pig and cured in the same way as guanciale.
- 8 oz guanciale (cured pork jowl), sliced 1/8 inch thick and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
- 2 sweet onions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- Kosher salt as needed
- 1 or 2 dried red chiles (peperoncini), cracked or crushed
- 1 lb dried bucatini
- 2/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano
- Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
- Heat a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the guanciale and cook, stirring from time to time, until it is browned and lightly crispy, about 4 minutes. Lift the guanciale from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside. There should be about 1/4 cup of rendered fat in the pan. Add a bit of oil if needed or, if you prefer, pour out the fat and replace it with 1/4 cup oil.
- In the same pan, cook the sliced onions over medium heat, stirring as necessary to cook evenly, until the onions are very tender and a deep golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Keep a close eye on the onions as they cook and reduce the heat, if necessary. Add the wine and the chiles. Simmer over low heat until flavorful, 3 to 4 minutes. Add half of the reserved guanciale to the sauce and set the remainder aside to use as a garnish. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and hot chile, if needed; set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the bucatini all at once and stir a few times to separate the pasta and submerge the strands. Cook, uncovered, at a boil until the pasta is almost cooked, 8 to 10 minutes (check the cooking time for your pasta). Reserve a few ladlefuls of the pasta cooking to finish the sauce (you will need about 1/2 cup).
- Drain the pasta in a colander. Pour the drained pasta into a large serving bowl. Add the reserved sauce and toss together, then add the cheese and mix well until the pasta is evenly coated. The dish should appear creamy, not oily. If necessary, add a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta cooking water.
- Garnish the dish with the remaining guanciale. Season generously with pepper. Serve at once.