I have such great memories of amatriciana sauce in Italy – friends and I used to frequent a mom and pop pizzeria in the town we lived in as one of our favorite haunts. The husband waitered, the wife cooked and the son bused the tables out of a front shop with an adjoining apartment behind the kitchen, making you feel a cherished guest at a friend’s house rather than a customer. We typically went for piping hot pizzettas with pliant blistered crusts, tart tomatoes and creamy buffalo mozzarella. One evening, I came home from class feeling exhausted and weighted down by a horrible headache. My friends were running over to the restaurant and asked if I’d like something. I asked them to bring me back some Pasta all’Amatriciana – a mouthful to pronounce but ever so delicious. When they brought me my food, they brought me real silverware to eat with. The mom was sure that we’d be back to return them, making us feel all the more like family.
Their classic version featured delicious guanciale, basically the jowl of the pig cured into bacon, but I like to use thick cut bacon for everyday amatriciana. You can also use pancetta, with the rendered fat from the bacon allowing the onions to mellow into sweetness. The whole thing is bound together by a tomato sauce of rich San Marzano tomatoes and white wine. It’s a glorious sauce, and takes about as long to prepare as it does to boil a pot of pasta. Good stuff considering that sometimes you don’t want to wait until the weekend (or a trip to Italy) to indulge in a meal fit for a king.
5 slices of thick bacon, sliced into slivers
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
1/2 c. of wine
3 cloves of garlic
pinch of black pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper
4 c. of fresh tomato sauce
1/4 c. of grated locatelli
salt to taste
1 lb. of spaghetti
4 tbs. of freshly chopped parsley
Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. While the water heats up, warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Add the onions to the pan and cook until very soft and golden. Add the wine, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine reduces by half. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Season with the black pepper and crushed red pepper. Pour in the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Stir in the grated cheese and taste for salt.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and add the sauce. Top with the chopped parsley and additional grated cheese and crushed red pepper.