Tonight we traveled to the medieval town of Amatrice in the northern realms of Lazio to dine on the gastronomically renowned dish bucatini all’ amatriciana. Though the town may be tiny, it has birthed to the world a dish that is so filled with a flavor that it can make one swoon (or it may just do that to me). The dish is simple and yet the flavor is so rich and complex- peppery, salty, warm, sweet, and oh so much more. It will keep you coming back for more, I promise!
Traditionally it came from shepherds and farmers of the region who only had access to pecorino romano cheese and cured meat (guanciale); however, over the past half a century or so folks started adding olive oil and tomatoes to it. Which ever way you have it, it will deliver! Just ask my girls (not sure what got into them, maybe just intoxicated by the deep flavors).
Well this dish, like most Italian pastas, starts with the classic onion and olive oil, with just a tinge of butter. Building this sauce from the ground up is the only way to go!
After that drop in your guanciale to soak up the flavors of the foundational base, and mix it up real well for a couple minutes.
Next comes the garden fresh tomatoes (canned last fall), that will act as a wonderful carrier of all this goodness you have been preparing so far.
While this is simmering away and thickening up, start your pasta water. Once it comes to a boil drop in your spaghetti or bucatini pasta. If you are not familiar with bucatini, it may be time to try some out- simply a treat with this sauce.
Once it is done drop the pasta directly into your sauce pan and mix well. Add about a cup of pasta water (or enough to get it nice and moist) and the freshly grated pecorino romano cheese and mix well. If you like, a little drizzle of fresh olive oil on top never hurts either. Once it is tossed well, move to a warm serving bowl and serve it up.
And don’t forget, if your kiddos don’t like spicy foods keep back the red chili pepper flakes and have some readily available at the table. In our house we always have a nice oil flask of Calabrian chili pepper oil available for tomato based sauces. It just adds a little extra something to this great dish.
And of course, don’t forget a nice vegetable as a side. I paired this with a side of broccolini cooked in olive oil and garlic, with a little fresh spring onion.
- 28-oz. can of peeled tomatoes, drained and crushed by hand (or back of spoon)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4-5 oz. guanciale (or pancetta if you can't find guanciale) cubed, or in thin short strips
- 1 onion diced (about a cup or so diced)
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
- ½ cup of freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
- Black Pepper
- 8 oz. bucatini pasta (or spaghetti)
- Add the diced onion and olive oil (1 tablespoon of butter is optional for added flavor) to a large saute pan and cook over medium heat till the onions become golden yellow.
- While this is cooking, cube the guanciale, or cut in thin short strips- make sure not to cut it up too small as it will crisp up and you are looking for chewy. Add to the onions and cook for a couple of minutes allowing some of the fat to melt a bit, and then add the tomatoes and mix well. Lower heat to keep a gentle simmer for about 25 minutes or so. Allow the sauce to thicken a bit, as you will add pasta water to the sauce before serving.
- Heat up a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Add salt and drop in the bucatini. Cook until it is about a minute or two before al dente and move to your sauce pan with tongs and mix well. Add a cup of hot pasta water, or enough to moisten pasta and sauce and mix well. Add in cheese, mix well, and move to a warmed serving bowl.
- Serve with additional cheese and hot oil at table, and enjoy!