Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Bucatini all’ Amatriciana
Please don’t get me wrong.
I love Molecular Gastronomy based dishes and Nuvelle Cuisine concoctions but there are numerous classics from different cuisines that I make in my kitchen when I want to have “comfort food”.
I usually cook dishes that I had when I was growing up as well as classic dishes that I picked up during my peregrinations around the world.
So, yes… I do make Greek Pastitsio, Turkish Imam-Bayildi or Iç Pilaf, a credible Paella from Spanish Valencia and, on a cold winter day, I will even cook a Cassoulet for 4 or 5 hours.
I also cook Thai Massaman chicken or prawns, Moroccan Harira soup and from Italy, Bucatini all’ Amatriciana.
Many tavernas in Rome serve the earthy and piquant Bucatini all’ Amatriciana. The pasta is cooked with a sauce that combines tomato pulp, guanciale (pork cheek) or diced pancetta, onion, garlic, an assortment of pepper flakes and white wine and is covered with grated pecorino cheese.
The dish is named after the eponymous town of Amatrice in Lazio, Italy’s central region close to Rome. I got the recipe 40 years ago from Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia, a storied Michelin-starred restaurant in Milan.
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz. thinly sliced guanciale, pancetta, or chopped non-smoked bacon
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup sliced or minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz. can San Marzano peeled tomatoes with juices, crushed by hand
½ cup white wine (Verdicchio or Vermentino preferred)
¾ cup finely grated Pecorino (about 1 oz.)
14 to 16 oz. of Bucatini
Step 1. Heat oil in a large heavy skillet or a sauteuse over medium heat. Add guanciale or pancetta and sauté until crisp and golden, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add pepper flakes and black pepper; stir for 10 seconds. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring often, until onion and garlic are soft, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes and wine; reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 15 to 20 minutes.
Step 2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until 2 minutes before al dente. Drain reserving ¼ cup of pasta water.
Step 3. Add drained pasta to sauce in skillet and toss vigorously with tongs to coat.
Add reserved pasta water (if pasta looks dry) and cook until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes. Stir in cheese and transfer pasta to warm bowls or plates.
Writer’s Note: Instead of just the red pepper flakes, I will sometimes add ¼ cup sliced pitted black olives or 1¼ tsp. of Spaghettata (an Italian spice blend from Naples) and ¼ tsp. of fresh oregano leaves, for a much more flavorful variation on the classic Amatriciana.
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