Pasta all’Amatriciana is one of those dishes that just ‘feels right’. It’s a Roman classic, but made in households throughout the entire country because it’s delicious, easy, and uses two of Italy’s favorite ingredients: pork and tomatoes.
Like most recipes in Italian cooking, high-quality ingredients are a must. If you can, grab some really good guanciale or thick cut bacon from your local butcher. We have trouble finding guanciale here in the U.S. so we love to use ‘black pepper’ thick cut bacon. For the tomatoes you have two options: fresh tomatoes or canned. Although we prefer fresh, using canned/jarred tomatoes allows us to eat this dish year round! For Pasta all’Amatriciana, bucatini pasta is definitely going to be best and most traditional, however, sometimes we don’t have it in our pantry! So we use spaghetti, which is also very common.
The Guanciale (or Bacon)
The depth in Pasta all’Amatriciana comes from the guanciale (or bacon). If you haven’t noticed, Pasta all’Amatriciana, Pasta alla Carbonara, and Pasta alla Gricia pretty much all have the same base! Perfect cooking guanciale (or bacaon) and you’ll be ready to cook all of these dishes.
Giuseppe likes to cook the guanciale with the lid off the pan while I like to cook the guanciale with the lid on the pan. We have agreed to disagree. The reasoning behind keeping the lid on goes back to how we cook our ‘Ragù alla bolognese‘. Keeping the lid on allows the meat to cook and brown in its own fat while staying soft and chewy. I also think it gives you more control over the meat. Try both ways and see what you like best!
We did sneak some peperoncini in while cooking this, we can’t help it! Giuseppe is Calabrian and we love spicy food. Although not traditional it is delicious. We add the peperoncini right before adding in the tomato sauce so the spiciness of the pepper can infuse the fat of the guanciale. You do you.
- 2 tbsp coarse salt + some for taste
- 350 grams Bucatini or Spaghetti (0.75lb)
- 1 can 15 oz. crushed tomatoes (San Marzano)
- 135 grams (0.3lb) Guanciale (or 4 slices thick cut Bacon)
- 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano (or 1/2 of each)
Fill a medium large pot with water, add salt. If water does not taste as salty as the sea add more salt. Bring to a boil.
- Finely grate Pecorino Romano (or Parmigiano Reggiano).
- Cut guanciale (or bacon) into 1/4″ wide strips.
- Place the guanciale (or bacon) into a medium large saute pan, cover and cook on low heat. You want the meat to ‘melt’. Cook for 15-20 mins on low heat. The meat should be brown but still soft and chewy when done cooking.
- Add tomatoes to guanciale (or bacon) and cook for 15 minutes. Salt according to taste.
- Add pasta to water, stirring every 2 minutes. Cook pasta 2-3 minutes before ‘al dente’ (see package for cooking time). Keep 1 cup pasta water.
- Strain pasta and add to tomato and guanciale (or bacon) mixture. Turn heat to high and stir continuously. Cook 2-3 minutes. (If pasta sauce gets too dry add a little pasta water).
- Add cheese. Turn off heat and continue to stir until cheese is completely combined.
- Plate immediately. Finish with 1 tsp of olive oil or more Pecorino Romano. Enjoy!