Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bucatini all'Amatriciana

Having really enjoyed this dish in Rome just last month during our trip there, I absolutely had to try making it once I got back. As noted in the Ingredients below, it's not easy to find one of its main ingredients, guanciale, here in the States but well worth the effort in order to reproduce the character of the dish. Luckily we live a short distance from Chris Cosentino's wonderful shop Boccalone in San Francisco that carries all kinds of high quality pork products. 
The recipe here is based on one I found, after a good amount of researching, from a delightful blog, The Italian Dish. I tweaked it with my own changes but then my mileage almost always varies when it comes to following recipes.
If you've never had guanciale I highly recommend trying to find some - it is also perfect for spaghetti carbonara, another Roman delicacy. I've seen several sources online via Amazon although there seem to be mixed reviews on the various vendors so caveat emptor


red onion diced

rendering the guanciale

this is about how I like it look once it's been rendered

cooking down the onions, wine, and tomatoes

bucatini, kind of a fat spaghetti

Pecorino Romano, grated

1/4 pound guanciale* (or one 1/4 pound chunk of pancetta)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, evenly diced small
healthy pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup white wine 
1 1/2 cups fresh skinned, or canned, whole tomatoes, crushed 
1/2 pound bucatini (or spaghetti)
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (or real Parmigiano-Reggiano)

* Since guanciale can be fairly difficult to get in the US, most American versions of this recipe suggest pancetta, or even bacon, as a substitute for it. However if you want the flavor to be as close to that of the dish as it's prepared in Italy, I'd strongly recommend making the effort to get good quality guanciale. Pancetta will suffice; in my opinion bacon has too much of its own character to be a good substitute but if that's all you can get, go for it.

Cut the guanciale (or pancetta) into thick strips then into cubes. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and when hot add the cubed guanciale. Cook until most of the fat has been rendered and the meat is becoming crisp. Remove from the skillet and set aside saving the fat in the pan. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile add the olive oil, the diced onion, and the red pepper flakes to the skillet in which the guanciale cooked, cooking until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes or so. Add the wine, bring to a simmer using a wooden spoon to loosen any bits left in the skillet from the meat. Add the tomatoes with any juice it may have, bring to a simmer and let it cook and reduce uncovered for about 15 minutes, adding a spoonful of water if it starts to dry out. Add back the guanciale to heat up with the sauce.

Once the large pot of water is boiling, add the bucatini and cook it a couple of minutes short of the instructions on the box. Remove the pasta from the pot and add it to the skillet with a dash of the pasta water. Let the sauce continue cooking with the pasta for a couple of minutes to allow the flavors to combine then remove from the heat. Add in the grated cheese and any salt it needs for seasoning, mix everything completely, then serve.

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