Amatriciana sauce in the making...
Amatriciana or matriciana, the sauce is still the same: rich, spicy, with crunchy bits of guanciale. The name varies based on who's trying to lay claim to this pasta sauce's origins. The sauce is supposedly named after the town of Amatrice in the Appenine hills to the North East of Rome just at the absolute northernmost corner of the Lazio region. Whether true or not, amatriciana sauce has now become one of the signature dishes of Roman culinary tradition.
Some traditional recipes use thinly sliced onion, which I like best, but others say that’s a violation of the original, true recipe. Try it both ways and decide which school of thought you like best!
I seem to be using guanciale for lots of dishes these days, but it's just so good and flavor-enhancing in many savory dishes. Guanciale is pork jowl, as the Italian name indicates: the word for cheek in Italian is guancia, hence the name guanciale. Whereas pancetta is a meatier part of the pig, guanciale has both meat and wonderful, delicious fat. When you cube the guanciale you should cook it very slowly over a low flame so that the bits of fat melt and become crunchy. It’s one of the most exquisite food ingredients that is traditional in Roman cuisine. It’s not always easy to find in the United States, but you can order it online .
It gives a certain oomph to otherwise bland vegetables and provides smoky, crunchy flavor to pasta sauces.
The original recipe calls for bucatini, a long, thickish, hollow pasta. Rigatoni is also frequently used. Today I used penne. Whichever pasta shape you use, select a good quality pasta: ingredients I always use are recommended below in my links.
Guanciale, 150 grams, finely cubed (or cut into thin, half inch long strips)
One peperoncino (red chili pepper), minced
One medium onion, thinly sliced
Bucatini (or pasta shape of your choice), 500 grams
Fresh or canned peeled tomatoes, 500 grams
Pecorino Romano cheese, about 75 grams, grated (optional)
Cook the guanciale in a heavy-weight frying pan (cast iron is ideal) over a very low flame until the guanciale starts to become golden and crispy.
Add the sliced onion and minced red pepper and cook until the onion is soft and translucent.
Add the tomatoes and cook over medium heat until the amatriciana sauce thickens.
While the sauce is cooking put the pasta into boiling, salted water and cook until al dente.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to your amatriciana sauce.
Toss well and serve with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
Here's an idea for a beautiful way to serve your pasta all'amatriciana; why cook amazing dishes and fall short on showcasing them with a beautiful presentation, at least when you're cooking for others? This dish is from De Ruta, north of Rome in the Umbria region, where I buy lots of my dishes and serving platters.
- 150 grams Guanciale finely cubed (or cut into thin, half inch long strips)
- One peperoncino minced, red chili pepper
- One medium onion thinly sliced
- 500 grams Bucatini 1 pound
- 500 grams Fresh or canned peeled tomatoes 1 pound
- 75 grams Pecorino Romano cheese grated (optional), a handful
- Cook the guanciale in a heavy-weight frying pan over a very low flame until the guanciale starts to become golden and crispy.
- Add the sliced onion and minced red pepper and cook until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Add the tomatoes and cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens.
- While the sauce is cooking put the pasta into boiling, salted water and cook until al dente or according to package instructions.
- Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to your pasta sauce.
- Toss well and serve with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
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