Published January 1, 2013. From Cook's Illustrated.
To perfect this controversial Italian dish, we looked to a staple of the American larder.
Each component of this dish is open to interpretation, and the star, guanciale, can be difficult to find in the United States.
We wanted an elegant yet bold take on this Italian dish, using ingredients we could find with ease.
Instead of guanciale, we found a much more common replacement: salt pork. Sautéing the pieces of pork boosted meaty flavor, but they turned tough during browning. The remedy was easy: We simmered the pork in water until the moisture evaporated and the pieces turned brown. This way, it remained supple even after browning and simmering.
When it came to white versus red wine, it made sense to depart from tradition: The heartier red wine provided a deeper, richer background flavor. And while official recipes allow for fresh or canned tomatoes, we decisively preferred canned diced, which offered satisfying, sweet bites throughout.
We then turned our attention to the cheese, Pecorino Romano. To prevent it from clumping when we added it to the pasta, we mixed the cheese with some cooled pork fat before stirring it in. We now had a clump-free dish and extra pork flavor to boot. The fat acted as a barrier to prevent the proteins in the cheese from bonding together as the cheese melted.list of recipes