Pasta with Spinach Garlic and Guanciale Sauce Recipe

Pasta with Spinach Garlic and Guanciale Sauce Recipe

Pasta with Spinach Garlic and Guanciale Sauce Recipe

A Tasty Pasta Recipe With Spinach, Garlic and Guanciale Sauce

I don’t even know where this recipe for strozzapreti pasta with spinach, garlic and guanciale sauce came from because I prepared it before we moved to Utah. I liked it enough to add the recipe to my drafts to be completed later so here we go.


Strozzapreti Pasta (stroh-tzuh-PRAY-tee)

Strozzapreti is similar to cavatelli pasta but elongated. They look like short twisted pasta that are typically rolled by hand but I’m guessing commercial companies have been able to figure out how to make them by machine.

I found this good video on YouTube explaining how Strozzapreti is made by hand. The video shows you how to make the dough from scratch, but I started it at the point of making the pasta and finishes with how to cook it. This is not me in the video but it is a great explanation to how it is twisted. 

A Little History of Strozzapreti

Strozzapreti is a specialty from north central Italy. You’ll find it in Tuscany, Umbria and especially in Emilia-Romagna. The name strozzapreti translated means “priest strangler”, preti means priest and strozza means strangle. 

So why the strange name for a pasta? The story I read goes back to the 1800’s when the Papal State (the Catholic church) decided everything including the land, rivers, and mountains belonged to the church. Everything was taxed and over time they continuously raised those taxes and thus angered the farmers and local peasants living in this north central part of Italy. 

The priests, who’s appetites were as large as their greed would stop in to local villages on their way to Rome demanding a huge meal and a place to sleep. The locals had no choice but to comply. 

The church also confiscated milk and eggs from the farmers so the farmers were forced to make pasta without eggs. Legend has it that when the women of this area made the popular strozzapreti pasta for the clergy men, they would curse them as they twisted the short pasta imaging the “strangling the fat throat of a purple-cloaked bishop.”

There is so much more about the history of this pasta on the internet, but I really like the story told here.

If you don’t want to make strozzapreti pasta by hand, you can find strozzapreti at most Italian specialty stores or online. If you can’t find it, you can try substituting fusilli, penne or gemelli.


Guanciale – (gyaan chaa lay)

Not everyone has heard of this delicacy from Italy but it is a critical ingredient for some Italian classic dishes like Bucatini all’Amatricianna and Spaghetti all Carbonara. If you have a gourmet speciality market, you should be able to find some especially if it is an Italian market. You probably won’t find it in your everyday supermarket unless you are shopping at a Wegmans or Whole Foods.

Guanciale is a cured meat coming from pork cheeks or jowls. The pork cheek is rubbed with salt and an array of spices, then cured for about three weeks. By this time, it will lose as much as 30% of its original weight.

Not to be confused with pancetta, a salt-cured meat coming from the pork belly, Guancialeis considered to have a more delicate texture. It is an incredible ingredient for adding depth of flavor to Italian dishes and sauces. 

Pancetta is another wonderful cured meat to cook with or use in a variety of dishes and is often substituted for Guanciale when not available, but if you can find it, buy some and try it in your next dish or any recipe that calls for bacon to enhance flavor.

You can try this other recipe featuring guanciale at BRAISED BEANS AND SPINACH WITH PECORINO ROMANO CHEESE RECIPE

Pasta with Spinach Garlic and Guanciale Sauce Recipe

Print Recipe

Pasta with Spinach, Garlic and Guanciale Sauce

Course: Pasta

Cuisine: Italian

Keyword: guanciale, pasta, pasta sauce

Servings: 2 people


  • 8.8 ounces strozzapreti pasta or whatever pasta you have on hand
  • salt to taste
  • ounces guanciale finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic freshly minced
  • olive oil as needed
  • 2 handfuls fresh spinach
  • hot pepper flakes optional
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese freshly grated


  • Bring a large pot of water to boil for cooking the pasta. When it comes to a boil, add salt, stir and toss in the strozzapreti pasta. Cook following directions for al dente.

  • While the pasta is cooking, heat up a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the guanciale and cook for approximately 5 to 7 minutes until the guanciale renders some of its fat and starts to brown. Stir continuously so the guanciale doesn’t burn.

  • Toward the end of the guanciale cooking, add the minced garlic in the rendered fat. If you think there is not enough rendered fat, add a tablespoon of olive oil. Saute the garlic for 1 minute until it releases its wonder fragrance.

  • Add the spinach and stir to combine. The spinach will wilt rather quickly, about 1 or 2 minutes.

  • When the sauce is done, hopefully the pasta is perfect al dente. Before draining, remove and reserve about ½ cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and place back in the pot it was cooked in.

  • If the sauce looks too thick, add a tablespoon at a time of the reserved pasta water. This will thin out the sauce a little and help the sauce stick to the pasta.

  • Add the sauce to the pot of pasta and stir to coat the strozzapreti pasta with sauce.

  • Plate onto your favorite pasta bowls and top with hot pepper flakes if you want the dish a little spicier and then some freshly grated Parmesan cheese. I like to add a little high end freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil to give the pasta more mouthfeel.


Be careful not to cook the guanciale to quickly. You want it to render it’s fat, brown and then start to crisp up but you don’t want it to burn.



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