Bucatini All’Amatriciana (Bucatini in Tomato Sauce with Pancetta and Hot Pepper)
Bucatini All’Amatriciana is a classic Roman dish that starts fights in restaurants and is the source of family and friend’s gossip and whispers over who is the best and worst at making this dish.
Bucatini (sometimes called perciatelli) is a very interesting long pasta that is wider than spaghetti and has a hole running through it. It’s made of durum wheat and water. The hole down the center prevents the bucatini from bending too much after it is cooked.
Besides using excellent ingredients, there are a few tricks to making this dish described in the recipe below:
- Cook the fat out (render) of the pancetta slowly over low heat and then increase the heat to crisp up the pancetta.
- Use tomatoes sparingly. The idea is to “dress” the pasta (bucatini in this case) with the sauce as you would dress a salad.
- Cook the pasta a full one minute less than the package directions state. The pasta will further cook in the sauce.
There is also an Italian dish called “mock Amatriciana” that substitutes slow cooked onions for the pancetta. This is presumably a “cucina povera” dish; that is, peasant cooking for times when pancetta was too expensive. It is nonetheless, excellent on its own.
This recipe serves 4 for an appetizer and 2 for a main course.
Ingredients and equipment:
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta, cut into small cubes
- 1 small onion, cut in 1/2-inch dice
- A generous pinch of red pepper flakes (½-1 teaspoon)
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- One 28-ounce can of good quality tomatoes; pureed in a food processor or by passing through a food mill
- 1/2 pound bucatini or perciatelli
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino-Romano, to top the pasta when serving
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. When hot, add the pancetta and slowly cook or “render” the fat. This is a process of slowly cooking pancetta to melt the fat. When the fat in the pancetta has mostly melted (about 20 minutes), increase the heat to medium-high and cook the pancetta until lightly crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta to a plate.
- Add the red pepper flakes and the onion to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly cook the onion until wilted and lightly colored, about 10 minutes. Add more olive oil if needed.
- Add the tomatoes. Stir with the onions and cook over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes. Add the crisped pancetta back into the pan. Maintain the heat at medium-low. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as needed.
- Cook the pasta in salted water for one minute less than the package directions state.
- Drain the pasta and add to the tomato-pancetta-onion mixture. Gently stir the pasta into the sauce with a wooden spoon for 30 seconds to finish the pasta.
- Serve the pasta in a bowl and top with the Pecorino-Romano cheese. Serve with additional Pecorino-Cheese on the side.