pasta & pancetta {alla vigliacca}
Spaghetti and Pancetta

Spaghetti and Pancetta

Spaghetti alla Vigliacca is one of my favorite recipes from The Italian Table. It’s also one of the easiest to pull together at the last minute. (maybe that’s why it’s my favorite?). Although it seems a no brainer, I first learned about this recipe at the tavola calda in the middle of the Mercato San’Ambrogio in Florence, Trattoria Rocco. This rustic trattoria is basically just a stand in the market, with formica tables ringing a central area where a steam table holds vats of soups, stews and vegetables.

Spaghetti alla Vigliacca is one of the few dishes on the menu that is made to order. Although, like I said, there is almost nothing to it.

This sauce is all about the pancetta. It uses a HUGE amount of pancetta per person. But…it is what it is. And what it is, is amazing. When Sophie and I were there while I was working on The Italian Table we got into a discussion with the owners about the amount of pancetta to use in the dish.  Sophie was definitely on ‘team more’ with the owner.  Since pancetta is the only thing going on here, try to get a hold of the best pancetta possible. Definitely do not substitute with bacon and absolutely do not use anything smoked. While Trattoria Rocco makes this with run of the mill spaghetti, and it’s pretty great, when I make it at home I try to use a more artisanal brand like Faella or Gentile, from Gragnano. It really does make a difference.

If you’re thinking,  why the recipe doesn’t call for cheese?,  that is because there isn’t any. Not even added at the table. This dish, unlike its Roman cousin Pasta alla Gricia, or even Carbonara, doesn’t have any cheese or eggs. It’s all about the pancetta with enough hot pepper to give it zing. And when you’re got that much pancetta going on, you don’t need much else.

And if you’re wondering why it’s called Spaghetti alla Vigliacca, Coward’s Spaghetti,  I have no idea. And after much asking around and research, seemingly no one else does either.

Spaghetti and PancettaSpaghetti and PancettaSpaghetti and PancettaSpaghetti and Pancetta


  • 3/4  pound of pancetta,
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 – 3 small Italian hot chili peppers (peperoncino) or to taste
  • salt for the cooking water
  • 1 pound of spaghetti


Pancetta often comes with the skin attached. If so, first trim this off with a sharp knife. Slice the pancetta, against the grain, into 1/4 inch slices. Cut each slice into 1/4 inch pieces, across the rows of fat. You will end up with little log-shaped, fat-striated, pieces. You should end up with about 1 and a half cups of pancetta pieces.

Use a pan large enough to fit the drained pasta in later. Pour the  olive oil into the pan then add the pancetta and chili pepper. Turn on the  heat to medium low, and let the pancetta cook slowly. You don’t want it to burn and it should not even become crispy. What you’re aiming for here is chewy .Let the pancetta give up its fat slowly. If it looks very dry, as if there isn’t enough fat, you can add another tablespoon of olive oil. Turn off the heat.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until almost al dente.  Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the pan with the pancetta, along with the water. Turn up heat, and finish cooking the pasta, mixing well to distribute the pancetta and fats over the strands of spaghetti.

When serving, the pancetta pieces tend to congregate at the bottom of the pan or bowl. Make sure everyone gets their fare share of pancetta!

You can serve with extra ground hot pepper at the table (Rocco sprinkles a bit along the edges of each plate).

This recipe is an excerpt from The Italian Table: Creating Festive Meals for Families and Friends. For more dishes to round out this menu, and for more menus and recipes, you can buy the book here.

For more information on where to eat in Florence, download my app, Eat Italy, or buy my book, Eating My Way Through Italy.

The post pasta & pancetta {alla vigliacca} appeared first on Elizabeth Minchilli.

Vía Elizabeth Minchilli

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