Guanciale & Mandarin Sugo Recipe

Guanciale Mandarin Sugo

Those of you that made a new year’s resolution to eat less fat should probably skip right past this post and go look at a nice healthy salad. You’ve been warned 😉

After making my Pasta Amatriciana I had a fair bit of guanciale left. I’d originally set it aside to make a more authentic pasta carbonara, but when I get a crazy idea in my head, it’s like having a song glued inside your brain until you listen to it. Such was the case as I stood beside my chef’s table eating a reheated portion of Amatriciana.

I had my microplane out for shaving some more pecorino on top, and as I glanced over at my fruit bowl brimming with Satsuma Mandarins a light bulb went off in my head. Guanciale (or at least my guanciale) had a distinct bergamot flavor, so I merrily zested a mandarin onto my plate and much to my delight, my microwaved lunch came alive before my nose.

Pasta with Guanciale Mandarin Sugo

I was happy about this new discovery and vowed to update my Amatriciana post, but what really intrigued me was all the other possibilities I hadn’t considered… What other flavors would pair with Guanciale? How else could Guanciale be prepared?

I sliced off a slab of Guanciale, gave it a quick fry and sat down with a glass of Pinot Gris. What other flavors could I divine from the tangle of complex aromas in this cured pork cheek? Was that some fennel I tasted? I popped open a tin of fennel pollen and sure enough, there was a distinct resemblance. Another bite, and a rummage through my pantry, revealed notes of juniper. And here’s the odd one, I could definitely make out the piney citrus notes of sichuan peppercorn in my guanciale.

Had my tastebuds gone mad? Surely the unshaven gentleman in the hills of Lazio wasn’t rubbing oranges and Sichuan pepper on my guanciale? In all likelihood not, but much like the bouquet of aromas that manifest themselves in wine, other cured and prepared foods develop complexities not originally apparent in the initial ingredients.

Guanciale Mandarin Sugo Recipe

In any case, I decided to run with it and this sugo made from caramelized onions and fennel braised with Satsuma Mandarins, juniper berries and sichuan pepper corns is the the result. It’s packed with an obscene amount of flavor and while it tastes very classic, you’d be hard pressed to place it geographically.

For me, this is what I love about cooking food without rules. Ingredients know no boundaries other than those we impose upon them. By casting aside those constructs for a moment you’re free to create a dish that may be entirely new.

Guanciale & Mandarin Sugo

makes 4 servings
10 once piece of Guanciale
1 large onion, sliced thin
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced thin
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 medium satsuma mandarins, unpeeled and torn into chunks
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1/4 teaspoon sichuan pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
fennel pollen

12 ounces fusilli, cooked according to package directions

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Put the Guanciale into a medium sized dutch oven and put over medium high heat, allowing some fat to render out then frying until browned on both sides. Transfer the Guanciale to a plate and add the onions and fennel.

Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes until the onions and fennel are wilted. Remove the lid and and fry the onions and fennel, stirring regularly until very caramelized (about 45 more minutes). As the water content reduces, you may need to turn the heat down to keep the onions from burning before they fully caramelize.

Add the wine, mandarins, honey, juniper berries, sichuan pepper and black pepper. Stir to combine, mashing up the mandarins a bit. Bring to a boil, cover and put it in the oven. Braise for about 2 1/2-3 hours or until the Guanciale is tender.

When your sugo is done, transfer the guanciale to a cutting board and cut it up into 1/4″ pieces and add it back to the sauce. Use a paddle to mash up the mandarin a bit and mix with the Guanciale. Boil the pasta according to the package directions making sure to cook it on the al dente side. Reserve about 1 cup of pasta liquid then drain the pasta. Transfer the pasta back into the empty pot then add the sugo. Drizzle in some of the pasta liquid while stirring until the sauce is a nice consistency and coats the fusilli (you probably won’t need all the water).

Plate the pasta and sprinkle a pinch of fennel pollen on top.

  • Anonymous

    It looks awesome. Your food photographs are fantastic!

  • Nisrine|Dinners & Dreams

    I love satsuma mandarins and sichuan so I think I’d enjoy this!

  • the indolent cook

    Definitely agree with your style of cooking, as I love experimenting too. The flavours sound really intriguing. Wish I was there when you made this!

  • Anonymous

    HA! my tastebuds have gone mad! the older I get the crazier my concotions are.
    love this dish marc! perfect.

  • Rhonda

    There you go, reminding me of luscious guanciale even though you know I don’t have acces to it, torture I tell you, pure torture!

  • Mike Pierce

    All I can say is WOW – can’t wait to try this one Marc! #amazing #intriguing

  • Kimberley

    OMG I am so impressed. And it’s so surprisingly simple for such a novel marriage of ingredients.

  • Georgia

    Mmm, this looks so warm and inviting! Your photography is so beautiful, too. Looking forward to exploring your recipes and seeing what’s next! – Georgia

  • Emily Monaco

    What a great gastronomic adventure… and very cool, interesting results.

  • Sabrina Modelle

    Marc, sometimes I think you’re right in my brain. Who wouldn’t love guanciale with mandarin and fennel pollen? Well, maybe a vegan or a crazy person. I think you’re brilliant and this looks divine. My mouth is watering for pork jowls.

  • Oui, Chef

    I bow down to your brilliance…you can keep the salad….I want the delicious guanciale FAT! – S

  • Rich

    “For me, this is what I love about cooking food without rules. Ingredients know no boundaries other than those we impose upon them.”

    Agreed. And while I think a lot of people are still stuck in the mindset that everything has to be geographically alike (and a lot of things are great when they are) I think that restricting an ingredient to a certain type of cusine only limits creativity.

    And that was my most serious comment ever.

  • Delishhh

    Om my! I have to say this is one of the more interesting recipes i have seen in awhile. Awesome combinations and flavors – brilliant! But that is also becase i love these flavors spice, sour, salt. I just want to taste this right now. I guess i will just have to make it this weekend. This is something i would order in a restaurant. . .nice work!

  • Sharlene

    The fact that you have fennel pollen and juniper berries in your pantry at any random moment makes me insanely jealous.

  • Emma @ Shichimi

    I never would’ve thought to put fruit in pasta sauce. It sounds crazy, but I bet it smells (and tastes) amazing!

  • Medifast Coupons

    This can easily become the next best comfort food there is! Every now and again, salads can be pushed aside! So full of flavour, these pictures look fantastic, great work!

  • Mariko

    It must be citrus season. I threw some orange pieces into my stew the other day but I can tell you right now it didn’t taste as half as good as your pasta looks.
    Diet? I didn’t even try to make that kind of resolution. Not with all these good blogs around.

  • Bailey Yamamoto

    I think everything in moderation is key… down to just a bite (for desserts) to just a serving, plus exercise no matter how much greentea you drink or oolong.. you can’t cheat exercise.. Having said that…. I LOVE pasta, and it’s quite a feat for me to stop at one serving…. and I never figured in using a dutch oven, I can not find juiper berries…

    • Anonymous

      If you can’t find Juniper, you can omit it for this one.

  • Lacey

    Yum! Looks so good. We’d love for you to post your photo and recipe at!

  • Mark

    Nice work. I really like the flavors. The mandarins and juniper berries are great ingredients. Thanks.

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  • MissNom

    Absolutely gorgeous. These flavors sound sensational.. will try and make it soon. I am in Italy.. where is the best place to find giancale?

    • Marc Matsumoto

      They make guanciale in central Italy around Lazio and Umbria, but I’d imagine you can buy it in other parts of Italy.


I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!

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