Guanciale Chickpea Salad with Preserved Lemon Dressing

Guanciale Chickpea Salad with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette
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This Guanciale Chickpea Salad is a play on an Italian Antipasto Salad. It features crisp gem lettuce, olives, sliced red grapes, pickled shallots, torn fresh mozzarella, and chickpeas tossed in a preserved lemon vinaigrette and topped with seared slabs of guanciale and hard-boiled eggs. This salad may seem a little disjointed and it certainly does have a lot going on. But I think you will find that each forkful makes a certain sense. This dish hits all the notes: salty, sweet, savory, sour, tart, and meaty. No two bites are the same. And while this dish has a lot of moving parts, it is a cinque to make. This salad isn’t a side or a starter, it’s definitely a main course.

Shallots on a cutting board.

This past fall, I visited a local Italian restaurant called Piano Piano. This restaurant is far from an unknown hole in the wall, so I’m not giving away any insider information here. If you’ve explored or lightly researched the Toronto food scene, their name has likely come up. They even have their own line of frozen pizzas. But despite my slight obsession with dining out, I had never managed to set foot in the place until last October. Did it live up to the hype? It most certainly did. 

Shallots pickling in white wine vinegar

While everything we ate was outstanding, the most memorable was the Caesar salad. I know, it’s a boring pick. But I promise, this was no ordinary Caesar salad. While the dish held true to the classic, everything from dressing to crouton was executed perfectly. Their one true innovation was the guanciale. Caesar salad typically features bacon bits – they’re the perfect smoky meaty counterpoint to the rest of the dish. Piano Piano’s Caesar had slabs of guanciale. Not bits. Slabs! And the texture was so incredible, I could not for the life of me understand why more people don’t serve guanciale this way.

Eggs ready to be boiled and peeled

But before I get ahead of myself, let’s talk about what guanciale is. Guanciale is cured pork jowl. If you’ve never had it, it gives off big bacon energy. It’s chewier and more springy than bacon and the flavor is a bit more complex. You will usually find Guanciale in dishes like carbonara chopped up into little bits called lardon. Like bacon, the fat that renders out of Guanciale is worth its weight in gold. In the case of carbonara or amatriciana, the guanciale fat plays a major role in flavoring the sauce and it also adds a good amount of body.

Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette in a small pitcher.

In this Guanciale Chickpea Salad, we will treat our Guanciale a little differently. Instead of finely chopping it into wee lardons, we’re going to cut it into beefy slabs and sear them in a hot skillet. I tell you it is a magical experience eating a forkful of crispy, melty Guanciale instead of a little nub. But before we tackle the guanciale, we have to prep the rest of the salad. Because we want that guanciale to be hot and fresh from the skillet when we eat it, it has to be the last thing we cook. 

Sliced red grapes on a cutting board.

We’re going to start by washing our gem lettuce. I like to do this before I do anything else. Drying greens is not my favorite thing to do in the world, so I like to give them ample time to air dry rather than fussing with a salad spinner. Help things along by placing the rinsed leaves in an even layer between two tea towels. Then I let nature take its course. When we’re ready to build the salad, our greens will be good and dry.

Seared guanciale in a large cast-iron skillet

Grab some shallots and slice them nice and thin. In a small bowl whisk to combine some white wine vinegar, sugar, and salt. Pop the shallots into the vinegar mixture and set them aside to pickle. They shouldn’t take very long and we don’t want them to take very long, that’s why it’s important to slice the shallots very thin. We want to make use of the vinegar solution in a bit, so we can’t dawdle. You will know the shallots are ready when they turn a vibrant shade of pink.

Radicchio, gem lettuce, sliced grapes, and pickled shallots in a large bowl.

Now, let’s tackle the eggs. Take the eggs out of the fridge before you do anything else. You don’t have to start with room-temperature eggs, but they shouldn’t be fridge-cold before you introduce them to the water. And speaking of water, place a small saucepan filled with water over high heat and bring it to a boil. Add 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda, and reduce the heat to medium. Lower the eggs into the water. Make sure they are fully immersed. Set a timer for 7 minutes. 7 minutes will give you jammy, custard-like centers. Not runny but not fully set either. Once your timer goes off, pop those eggs in an ice bath and let them sit for ten minutes. If you skip those ten minutes, you’re only hurting yourself because those suckers will be seriously hard to peel. 

Guanciale Chickpea Salad with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

Okay, let’s talk dressing. Remove the flesh from one preserved lemon. Toss the rind in a food processor. Add a peeled clove of garlic, olive oil, and the brine from the pickled shallots. You can see why we needed those suckers to pickle quickly. Blitz everything together until a smooth dressing forms. This makes about a cup of dressing. You may need all of it for this salad or you may not. Leftovers keep for a week in the fridge and are equally delicious on all sorts of things.

Now, all we have left is chopping. Thinly slice some red grapes, drain a can of chickpeas, finely chop some radicchio, pit some green olives, and tear a ball of fresh mozzarella into strips. At this point, it is safe to introduce your guanciale to a hot skillet. 

Guanciale Chickpea Salad with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

Once the guanciale is seared, it’s time to build our Guanciale Chickpea Salad. Pile the lettuce, radicchio, shallots, and chickpeas into a bowl and pour the dressing over top. Toss to coat. Transfer the mixture to bowls and top with the olives, grapes, mozzarella, an egg, and 2-3 slabs of guanciale. Garnish with fresh dill and serve immediately. 

And that’s everything you need to know about this Guanciale Chickpea Salad with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette. This salad has everything and is everything, so grab a knife and fork because you’re going to need them. 


Guanciale Chickpea Salad with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

Guanciale Chickpea Salad with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

This Guanciale Chickpea Salad features gem lettuce, radicchio, pickled shallots, and chickpeas tossed with a preserved lemon vinaigrette and topped with fresh mozzarella, sliced grapes, olives, jammy eggs, and seared guanciale.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Course Main Course, Salad
Servings 4


  • 1 Cast iron skillet
  • 1 Food Processor


  • ½ cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 shallots thinly sliced into half-moons
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 preserved lemon quartered, flesh removed
  • 1 clove garlic peeled
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 150g (5oz) guanciale sliced into ¼" slabs
  • 2 heads gem lettuce washed and torn
  • ½ head radicchio finely chopped
  • 1 (540ml, 18.2 fl oz) can chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella torn
  • 200g (7oz) red grapes thinly sliced
  • 1 cup green olives pitted and torn in half
  • ¼ cup torn fresh dill for sprinkling


  • Pour the white wine vinegar into a small bowl. Add the sugar and salt and whisk to combine. Stir in the shallots and set aside to pickle.
    ½ cup white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp granulated sugar, 1 tsp salt, 3 shallots
  • Take the eggs out of the fridge and place a pot of water over high heat. Bring the water to a boil and add the baking soda. Reduce the heat to medium and lower the eggs into the water. ** Simmer the eggs for 7 minutes before transferring to a water bath. Let chill for 10 minutes before peeling and slicing in half. Set aside.
    4 large eggs, ½ tsp baking soda
  • Place the preserved lemon rind in a food processor. Add the garlic, olive oil, and the pickling liquid from the shallots. Blitz until very smooth. Pour the dressing into a pitcher and set aside.
    1 preserved lemon, 1 clove garlic, ½ cup olive oil
  • Place a cast-iron skillet over medium heat and add the guanciale. Sear the guanciale on both sides until golden. Transfer to a plate and keep warm in a low 150°F oven. *** Pour the fat into a ramekin and save it for future culinary projects.
    150g (5oz) guanciale
  • Place the lettuce, radicchio, shallots, and chickpeas in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over top. **** Toss to coat.
    2 heads gem lettuce, ½ head radicchio, 1 (540ml, 18.2 fl oz) can chickpeas
  • Divide the salad across four bowls and top with the mozzarella, grapes, and olives. Add an egg to each bowl and 2-3 slices of guanciale. Garnish with fresh dill and serve immediately.
    1 ball fresh mozzarella, 200g (7oz) red grapes, 1 cup green olives, ¼ cup torn fresh dill


** Make sure the eggs are fully immersed.
*** Make sure you have all your salad components prepped before searing the guanciale.
**** Add as much dressing as you like. I only added half. The leftovers last for one week in the fridge. 
Keyword baby gem lettuce, chickpeas, fresh mozzarella, grapes, green olives, guanciale, preserved lemons

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