guan·​cia·​le gwän-ˈchä-lē How to pronounce guanciale (audio) -(ˌ)lā How to pronounce guanciale (audio)
: a cured Italian meat product typically made with pork jowls and spices (such as bay leaf, juniper, and black pepper)
Guanciale is commonly used in pasta dishes, diced or sliced and sautéed to render its fat and flavor the pasta sauce.Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
There is very little historical material on the origins of cured guanciale, but in most parts of the world where some form of bacon has been produced, the jowl was one of the cuts used.Dino Joannides

Examples of guanciale in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The fresh eggs give the dish a vivid yellow hue, and the hefty, crisp pieces of guanciale are doled out with precision; it’s said that the chef personally counts the seven pieces allotted to each plate. Laura May Todd Enea Arienti, New York Times, 17 May 2024 Girod was a protege of Chris Bianco, one of the country’s most celebrated pizza makers, and here, his Neapolitan-style creations are flavored with very Italian ingredients like guanciale and pistachio. Chadner Navarro, Condé Nast Traveler, 15 Apr. 2024 Heat guanciale and oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fat is rendered and guanciale is starting to brown, 4 to 6 minutes. 2. Erica Turner, Chicago Tribune, 26 July 2023 The sauced pasta is plated, topped with the crisped guanciale and served with more pecorino at the table. G. Daniela Galarza, Washington Post, 28 Sep. 2023 Rigatoni’s tubular shape was ideal for cradling the glossy sauce and chunks of guanciale and sausage. Erica Turner, Chicago Tribune, 26 July 2023 Funke, with his trademark salt-and-pepper beard and blue denim shirt, would be adding a handful of blanched fava beans as the guanciale sizzles, perhaps noting that this springtime addition is the only acceptable variation to Roman canonists always up for an argument. Los Angeles Times, 21 Apr. 2022 Slice guanciale into 1/4-inch-thick strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. Erica Turner, Chicago Tribune, 26 July 2023 The heirloom vegetables are topped with what looks like strips of blond bacon but is in fact wrinkly, melt-on-the tongue guanciale, while the cheese acquires its freckles and subtle smokiness from Urfa chile flakes. Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, 17 May 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'guanciale.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from regional Italian (Lazio, Umbria) (in general Italian, "pillow, cushion"), from Italian guancia "cheek" + -ale, denominal noun suffix, going back to Latin -ālis -al entry 1; guancia going back (perhaps by back-formation from plural *guanke) to Germanic *wanga- or *wangōn- (whence also Old English wang [strong masculine], wange [weak neuter] "cheek, side of the face," Old Saxon & Old High German wanga "cheek," Old Icelandic vangi), of uncertain origin

Note: M. Cortelazzo and P. Zolli (Dizionario etimologico della lingua italiana) suggest that, given the distribution of guancia in Italy, it was acquired from the Lombard speech of the early medieval Duchy of Spoleto. The Germanic noun is further attested in Old English wangere "pillow, cushion," with cognates in Old High German wangari, Gothic waggareis. The "cheek" etymon has been compared with Germanic *wanga- "field, meadow," whence Old English wang, wong "plain, field," Gothic waggs "paradise," etc.

First Known Use

1987, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of guanciale was in 1987

Dictionary Entries Near guanciale

Cite this Entry

“Guanciale.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jul. 2024.

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