This dish, Pasta all’Amatraciana gives me great joy to make and is so full of amazing memories. You see, when I ran off to Italy by myself for two 3-month periods after Steve passed, I would fly into Milano, to be able to visit with Bianca, and stay at this little boutique hotel, a block and a half away from this very traditional restaurant. I’d order a difficult martini (they really don’t know mixed cocktails very well), 1/2 bottle of chianti, this dish, and literally, just be in heaven. Sigh…!!!
This was, of course, after the long flight. Then I would walk up and down several blocks numerous times to work it off, go back to the hotel and sleep blissfully all happy and full. In fact, one time, I completely overslept my alarm and missed my train to Arezzo the next day, causing some complications for my dear friend Tiziana.
In this Pasta all’Amatraciana recipe, you must have the heat with the chili flakes. Ideally, you should have bucatini, but in this pandemic time I used leftover spaghetti.
Ideally, you should use guanciale, which in Italy, is readily available and my absolute favorite ingredient to cook with as it imparts SO much flavor to any dish. Guanciale is the cheek of the pig. Because you might not have any luck finding it here, just use pancetta or really good, high quality, no nitrate, local bacon, which is what I used in these photos. But if you can find it – A. Maz. Ing. – and relish it!
This is a saucy pasta, which is what I remember from my last visit but who knows??? The restaurant was bought by Chinese folks. Only the sweet old Italian waiters were left who wanted to truly please this tired Americana.
They serve you a huge piled plate of pasta. I ate the whole thing.
I walked a lot. I slept very well.
Here’s the recipe to make with LOVE and create some fond memories of your own.
Pasta all’Amatriciana – serves 4 – 6
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 pound of bucatini or spaghetti pasta
½ pound guanciale, chopped into ½-inch chunks or nitrate-free local bacon
1 medium-to-large-size onion, minced (at least 1 cup’s worth)
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
6 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 can (28 oz.) of San Marzano tomatoes (make sure the can says “D.O.P.”) hand-crushed
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus a little extra for serving
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add the guanciale or bacon and cook for about 5 minutes, then add the onion and saute for another 3 – 5 minutes until the guanciale or bacon starts to get a little brown, stirring constantly. Add the red pepper flakes and let their flavor infuse the oil for about 30 seconds. Next, add the garlic and cook until it softens and starts to get some golden-brown spots, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes to the skillet. Pour them out of the can and hand crush each tomato into the skillet. Bring to a simmer and then lower the heat and let cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring regularly. Test for salt and add more if necessary. Don’t go too crazy because the guanciale or local bacon will provide ample flavor and the pecorino will add salt too.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and generously salt the water once it starts boiling with coarse sea salt. Add the pasta and cook until it is just shy of al dente – 2 minutes less than the lesser amount of cooking time it says on the package. Reserve about ¾ cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta.
Add the pasta to the tomato-sauce pan and cook for another 2-3 minutes, adding the pasta water little by little to prevent it from getting too dry stirring constantly, making sure the pasta is only cooked to al dente. You should use 1/4 – 1/2 cup as the pasta needs more water to finish cooking. Stir in the Pecorino Romano. Taste and season with pepper and only a little salt if it needs it. Serve with a little extra Pecorino if desired and LOVE!