Monday, July 12, 2010

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

The last few weeks before my defense felt like a race against time. Most days I was so consumed by my dissertation that that I worked through lunch, got home late, and realized I forgot to pick up groceries, yet again. Every night it came down to two options: ordering take-out or making a quick meal out of something in my mostly empty refrigerator. Take-out usually won.

But eating take-out (or worse, left-over take-out) everyday can get rather tiresome, no matter how good the restaurant. It came to the point that the thought of Thai, Indian, or pizza take out for the nth time in the past month became so unbearable, that I had to cook, even if it meant eating dinner at 10pm.

This dish is nothing fancy, but makes a quick and satisfying weeknight dinner. And I felt so much happier eating a quick homemade dinner than having take-out again. I think you will too!

Sugo all'Amatriciana is a traditional sauce from Amatrice, a town in central Italy. It has guanciale, tomatoes, red chilis, fresh parsley, pecorino romano, and parmigiano reggiano.  Sigh, I LOVE my microplane.

For those of us who shy away from bacon, guanciale is a cured meat from pig's cheek, yes, jowls. Naturally I skipped the guanciale, and next time I think I will swap it for some zucchini and yellow squash.

And, as Mario says, the key to eating pasta is to cook it al dente and leave the extra sauce behind. It leaves the dish feeling lighter and more balanced. That's right, Mario and I are on a first name basis.

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana
1/2 lb spaghetti or bucatini
2 tbsp olive oil
optional 2 oz sliced guanciale or pancetta, cut into 1/2" wide strips
1/2 medium red onion, ends trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/4" wide slices
 2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups San Marzano tomatoes (diced)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano, freshly grated
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated
2 tbsp Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped

In a small saucepan, simmer San Marzano tomatoes in their juice until reduced by half over medium low heat.

Bring water to a boil, add 1 tbsp salt. Cook pasta until just al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat sauté pan over medium high heat. Add olive oil, wait for it to get hot. Add guanciale (if using), red onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 7 minutes. Add red pepper flakes, cook, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in tomato sauce, reduce heat to low. Season lightly with freshly ground pepper and if desired, sea salt. I find that the pecorino adds enough salt for my taste.

Remove sauté pan from heat. Transfer pasta to the pan with 2 tbsp reserved pasta water. Toss until pasta is well coated. Add additional reserved pasta water if necessary. Stir in both cheeses and toss with parsley. Serve immediately.

Serves 2-3.


  1. Mario always has the best advice...this pasta looks great, and I would love a big bowl right now!

  2. That looks so good! I need to get guanciale.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...