I’m not quite sure when my love affair with amatriciana began. Maybe when I realized that I liked it’s bold, robust flavor more than carbonara’s rich-yet-delicate one? Pronounced ah-ma-treetch-ee-ya-nah (with the middle part said fast!), amatriciana is similar to carbonara with one huge, major difference: the tomato, of course! But, luckily for you, it’s just as easy to make, and in my humble opinion, way more delicious.
You start with some pork — guanciale, traditionally; pancetta, sometimes; though in my case, I totally cheated and used bacon — cook a bit of onion, and add in your tomato. That’s really the essence of amatriciana. Like so many traditional regional dishes, there are many opinions about what’s authentic and what’s not. I say forget all that. Make it so that it’s authentic to you, and probably more importantly, in a way that is quick and easy on a weeknight!
Amatriciana, in Rome at least, is often made with bucatini, which is my personal favorite pasta to pair with the sauce. There wasn’t any bucatini in sight at Whole Foods though, so I opted for some linguini instead. You could use spaghetti, rigatoni, any shape of pasta you like, really! Here’s how to make it:
2 strips of thick cut, good quality bacon, diced
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flake
1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine (decidedly not traditional, but I had some wine lying around, so why not?)
1 lb pasta of your choice (I used linguini)
— kosher or sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and extra olive oil
— Pecorino or Parmigiano to garnish
— Fresh chopped basil, to garnish
Place the bacon and two tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan and place over medium heat. Cook the bacon slowly, rendering the fat and allowing the meat to crisp. Once cooked and crispy, pour the bacon and the fat off into a bowl lined with paper towels, allowing to drain. Set aside.
Place the frying pan back on the stove, and add in the second two tablespoons of olive oil. Add in the onion, the garlic, and the crushed red pepper flake, and stir to release some of the browned bacon bits from the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper, and cook for 5-10 minutes, until the onion is very soft and turning brown. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, stirring to release any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook at a vigorous simmer for 3-5 minutes, until the wine in the pan has almost all evaporated.
Add in the crushed tomatoes, the drained bacon pieces, and season well with salt, pepper and olive oil if you like (I personally find that adding a few more tablespoons of olive oil here really enriches the sauce). Cover the pan — I used aluminum foil since my pan was pretty wide — and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer for half an hour at least. Check for seasoning — it may need a little more salt, pepper, or even olive oil.
When the sauce is about fifteen minutes away from being done (or whenever you are ready to use it), heat a large pot of salted water over medium high heat. Cover, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add in the pasta and cook for one minute less than the package directions instruct.
Once time is up, use tongs of a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta directly into the pan with all the sauce. Use tongs or two forks to gently toss the pasta in the sauce, allowing it absorb the sauce and finish cooking.
Transfer the sauced pasta to a plate or bowl, and garnish with cheese and chopped basil. Yum!