La Pasta Amatriciana
I hope Lidia won’t mind that I am sharing her recipe here with you. Here is what she has to say about this famous pasta dish from Amatrice.
This classic and delectable pasta dish originated in the region of Abruzzi, in the little town of Amatrice, northeast of Rome, where it was traditionally prepared without tomatoes. But it is the Roman version of pasta all’amatriciana, with tomatoes, that I share with you here—the version that is best known and deservedly popular. Lots of onions; chips of guanciale, pancetta, or bacon; and San Marzano tomatoes are the essential elements of the sauce, Roma style. Note that the onions are first softened in water, before olive oil is added to the pan—a traditional but unusual step that is said to make the onions sweeter. The standard pasta used is bucatini or perciatelli (spaghetti are only tolerated). The long, dry strands of perciatelli resemble very thick spaghetti but are hollow like a drinking straw. When cooked, they are wild and wiggly, so you might be tempted to cut them. Do not—once you’ve got them on your fork, they’re delicious and fun to eat. It is quite all right to slurp them. Indeed, as kids we would suck them in so fast that the end of the noodle would whip us in the nose, splattering sauce all over our faces. What a wonderful memory!
Bucatini all’Amatriciana by Lidia Bastianich
- One 35-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or to taste
- 1 medium onion, sliced thin (about 2 cups)
- Four 1/4-inch slices pancetta (about 6 oz.), cut into 1 1/2-inch julienne strips (about 1 ½ cups)
- 2 whole dried red peperoncino hot red peppers or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 pound perciatelli or bucatini pasta
- 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese or Grana Padano, plus more for passing
Pass the tomatoes and their liquid through a food mill fitted with the fine disc. Set aside. Bring 6 quarts of salted water to boil in an 8-quart pot.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 4 minutes. Stir in the pancetta and cook 2 minutes. Add the hot red peppers and the strained tomatoes and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to a simmer, and season lightly with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, stir the perciatelli (bucatini) into the boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until done, about 12 minutes.
Check the seasoning of the sauce, adding salt if necessary (remember the Pecorino is mildly salty).
Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta, return it to the pot and pour in half the sauce. Bring the sauce and pasta to a boil and add enough of the pasta cooking water, if necessary to make enough of the sauce to lightly coat the pasta. Check the seasoning, adding salt if necessary.
Remove the pan from the heat, stir in 1 cup of the grated cheese and transfer to a large, heated serving platter or bowl. Spoon the remaining sauce over the top and pass additional grated cheese separately if you like.