Pasta alla Zozzona

Zozzo actually means dirty and Pasta alla Zozzona loosely translates to a big dirty mess.  The ingredients of the four pasta dishes for which Romans are famous, Amatriciana, Cacio e Pepe, Carbonara and alla Gricia, are blended together to create one of the most decadent and memorable pastas I have ever eaten!  Don’t be put off by the name.  In Roman dialect, the word also means something that’s full of everything and hard to describe. 

Pasta alla Zozzona is a feast for the palate, a true celebration of Roman flavors, and an amazing recipe for those who love big flavors and hearty dishes.  It shares the guanciale (or pancetta) and cheesy egg sauce of a classic Carbonara, but with the addition of onion, tomato, and spicy sausage.  While Italian cooking is famous for adhering to traditions and rules, there are plenty of dishes like Pasta alla Zozzona that (thankfully) fly in the face of convention.  It takes more of a kitchen sink approach featuring lots of ingredients from the four combined recipes. 

The dish is typically made with Rigatoni because it is sturdy enough to hold up to the hearty sauce.  It is meant to be fiery and spicy.  Using sausage that is not spicy hot will not yield the same result, although it might be how you prefer it.  Pasta alla Zozzona is rustic, country fare rarely seen on menus in high-end restaurants and more typically found in trattorias, enjoyed with a house red wine. 

The yummy, creamy, silky sauce and fatty, porky combination of flavors is anything but light.  But, as the Romans say, “It’s okay to go crazy now and then”.  So…let’s go crazy and do something dirty!  Pasta alla Zozzona – rich with flavor, easy to make, obscenely delicious!

Pasta alla Zozzona

Pasta alla Zozzona is a glorious blend of some of Italy’s most famous pastas: Amatriciana, Cacio e Pepe, Carbonara and alla Gricia; all come together in a creamy, silky, porky sauce. This is rustic, trattoria style pasta, rich with flavor and easy to make. A dish you won’t soon forget!
Servings 6 servings
Author Rosalie D’Amico


The Pasta

  • 8 ounces Rigatoni pasta

The Sauce

  • 2 ounces pancetta finely diced (Romans use guanciale which is hard to find – pancetta is a good substitute)
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 12 ounces hot Italian sausage (this dish is meant to be spicy)
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 2 cups Mezzetta Spicy Marinara (passata is traditional, see notes for more information)
  • ¼ cup water

The Egg Mixture

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese


Make the Sauce

  • Dice the pancetta or guanciale into ¼ inch pieces. Adding oil to the pan before you cook the pancetta is not necessary since it is very fatty. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently until fat is rendered and it is starting to brown.
  • Add onion and cook to soften, 4 or 5 minutes.
  • Add sausage and garlic and cook, breaking up sausage into ½ inch pieces until no longer pink, 8-10 minutes.
  • Add wine and simmer for 5 minutes to cook off the alcohol.
  • Add marinara and ¼ cup water and simmer for another 5-10 minutes. If you use passata, you will have to cook longer, at least 30 minutes.

Cook the Pasta

  • Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted water until al dente – 2 minutes less than suggested cooking time (because the pasta will continue to cook in the sauce). Reserve 1 cup cooking water. Drain pasta and return to pot.
  • Add sauce to pasta. Cook over medium-low heat until pasta is well coated and cooked to your taste. Remove from heat.

Add the Egg Mixture

  • Whisk Pecorino and egg yolks in medium bowl until combined. Slowly whisk ½ cup reserved pasta cooking water into egg yolk mixture. Off heat, stir egg yolk mixture into pasta until sauce looks glossy and slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Adjust sauce consistency with remaining reserved cooking water if needed. Serve with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.


Passata is an uncooked tomato purée that has been strained of seeds and skins. Some passatas are chunkier and some are smoother, depending on the brand. Pomi brand, which comes in a carton and is labeled “strained tomatoes” is available in most grocery stores. I prefer to use my “go to” Mezzetta Spicy Marinara, however. If using passata, you can amp up the spice level if you like by adding chili pepper flakes.
Pecorino Romano Cheese: This is the traditional cheese used. Parmigiano Reggiano can be substituted, but it will not have the same flavor or hold up to the strong flavors in the sauce.