Of all the many classic Roman sauces, all'Amatriciana is one of the more—if not the most—famous sauces. Its claim to fame is tied closely to Rome, but as the name suggests, the small town of Amatrice is attributed with the invention of the sauce. Romans popularized the dish and switched out the more traditional spaghetti for bucatini, a long tube-shaped pasta, much like a drinking straw. It's now more common to find the dish made with bucatini than any other pasta shape. Whichever pasta you choose to use, the most importance lies in the flavor of the sauce. It should be porky, peppery, a bit spicy, seasoned well, and simple.
The sauce has been around for hundreds of years in many different incarnations. It first only included guanciale and pecorino (basically the famous alla Gricia sauce), but then later tomatoes were added. Some iterations even include olive oil, garlic, and onion. The preferred cheese for this recipe is the sheep's milk cheese, pecorino, for its sharp quality. Guanciale, a cured bacon made from the pig jowl, is the focal point of the sauce. It can be hard to find. Pancetta is the only other substitute, though an Italian would frown upon using it in this recipe. Guanciale is more unctuous when compared to pancetta. Either way the recipe is interpreted, the result is a satisfying and enjoyable dish with wriggly bucatini and a full-flavored sauce.
Bucatini all'AmatricianaNote: If you like your Amatriciana on the saucier side, use 12 ounces of bucatini. If you like there to be more pasta, use the entire 16-ounce package of bucatini
6 ounces guanciale, cut into lardon
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried peperoncino flakes
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes or whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
coarse sea salt
12 to 16 ounces bucatini
1/4 cup grated pecorino Romano, plus more for serving
Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat. Add guanciale and cook until fat has rendered, about 5 to 8 minutes. The guanciale should have mostly crispy parts with some fatty, chewy parts. Add the black pepper and peperoncino; toast for 30 seconds. Add crushed tomatoes. Reduce heat and simmer the sauce until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes.
While the sauce simmers, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, season liberally with salt. Add the pasta; cook just a few minutes short of package directions. Add cooked pasta directly to the simmering sauce; toss to coat. Add a ladleful of pasta water, and continue cooking the pasta in the sauce for a few minutes more. The sauce should be thick and stick to the pasta. Off the heat, stir in the cheese. When serving, top with additional cheese. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.