Of all the many classic Italian 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 creation 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. Whichever pasta you choose to use, the most importance lies in the flavor of the sauce. It should be porky, 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, but then olive oil and garlic were added along with tomatoes. 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 as it was for me. Pancetta is the only other substitute, though an Italian would frown upon using it in this recipe. Guanciale has better pork flavor and more delicate texture 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.
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces guanciale or pancetta, cut into small pieces
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 16-ounce package bucatini
1/3 cup fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
Warm oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook until fat has rendered, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and onion; sauté until fragrant and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning; toast for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Add crushed tomatoes. Reduce heat and simmer sauce until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Check seasoning.
While sauce simmers, cook bucatini according to package directions in liberally salted water. Add pasta directly to pan and toss to coat. Finish with parsley and cheese. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.