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Bucatini all’Amatriciana

Guanciale, pork cheek that resembles unsmoked bacon and is cured with salt, pepper and sometimes garlic, is traditionally used in this dish from Amatrice, a small town near Rome known for its excellent pork products. Pancetta, rolled pork belly cured in a similar manner and more widely available outside Italy, can be substituted. Tomatoes, onion, garlic and chili complete the sauce, which is usually served over bucatini, a thick strand pasta with a hole in the center.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 lb. guanciale or pancetta, chopped 
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil 
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes 
  • 2 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped fresh or canned tomatoes 
  • Sea salt, to taste, plus 2 Tbs.
  • 1 lb. bucatini, spaghetti or rigatoni 
  • 1/3 cup grated pecorino romano cheese, plus more for serving 

Directions:

In a fry pan over medium heat, cook the guanciale in the olive oil, stirring often, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the onion and sauté until tender and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until the garlic is golden, about 1 minute more.

Pass the chopped tomatoes through a food mill fitted with the medium disk or a medium-mesh sieve directly into the pan. Add a pinch of salt, bring to a simmer and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a rolling boil and add the 2 Tbs. salt. Add the bucatini, stir well and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, according to the package instructions. Scoop out and reserve about 2 ladlefuls of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.

Return the pasta to the pot, add the sauce and stir and toss over low heat until well coated, adjusting the consistency with some of the cooking water if needed. Sprinkle with the 1/3 cup cheese and toss again. Transfer the pasta to a warmed serving bowl and serve immediately, passing additional cheese at the table. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).