CLASSIC pasta bucatini all'amatriciana (with pancetta)








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This is the famous boldly flavored, highly-spiced dish from the town of Amatrice, near Rome. It is both simple to prepare and infinitely rewarding in its perfect combination of flavors.

>>Authenticity note: The basic, true all'amatriciana (in Rome or Amatrice) uses guanciale -- cured, un-smoked pig's jowls -- rather than pancetta as the meat. Our original recipe, below, uses pancetta because that is the meat we can most easily get in the United States. However, guanciale is now becoming available in this country in a few shops and by mail order, so we are also including the authentic recipe in our web site. Go to all'amatriciana with guanciale

for the sauce:

  • three plus one tablespoons olive oil
  • one medium onion, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces of pancetta, or slab bacon, about 1/4 inch thick, roughly chopped into squares about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in size
  • one teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
  • 2 cups canned, imported Italian plum tomatoes, drained and cut up
  • salt and lots of freshly ground pepper
  • one-half cup freshly grated pecorino Romano

for the pasta:

  • one pound bucatini or vermicelli or spaghetti

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, for about eight minutes, until it is lightly browned and almost crisped. Use a slotted spoon and transfer the pancetta to a separate plate (on a paper towel).

If there are more than two or three tablespoons of fat left, drain off the excess. Add the onion to the saucepan and sauté for about 3 minutes, until soft; add the red pepper flakes, salt and the freshly ground pepper, and sauté another 30 seconds.

Add the chopped tomatoes, simmer (uncovered) for about twenty minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Taste and correct for salt and pepper. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot (4 -5 quarts) of cold water to a heavy boil, add a couple of tablespoons of salt, drop in the pasta, stir it around, and cook to al dente. (tasting regularly to check for doneness).

One of the tests as you mix the sauce and pasta, is to make sure the sauce is moist enough to coat the pasta beautifully. The sauce might be a little thick. Therefore, before draining the pasta, take one cup of the pasta water out and reserve it.

Drain the pasta well; add it to the sauce; raise the heat; add the reserved pancetta; add the extra tablespoon of olive oil toss and stir for thirty seconds. At this point if the pasta needs a little more liquid, add it from your reserved pasta water. Continue to stir.

 Add the cheese; stir some more. Cover the pan, turn up the heat to high, and steam for one minute. This means the pasta will be steaming hot when served. Serve immediately.

>>Variation: add one-half cup of white wine to the sauté pan before adding the tomatoes; boil about 30-45 seconds to evaporate.


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