Spaghetti all’Amatriciana

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.

Recipe for

Spaghetti all’Amatriciana

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.

12 thoughts on “Spaghetti all’Amatriciana”

  1. This recipe is good in the fact it is not laden with meat. A lot of times there is so much meat that you cannot really taste all the flavors of the sauce. Just a touch of bacon is probably spot on. Thanks for sharing-I am now ready for italian food!

    1. Ah, thanks, Tina! I also enjoy it because it makes for a lazy supper on a day that you don't feel like slaving too long in the kitchen 🙂

  2. it is usually bucatini all'amatriciana and not spaghetti. Overall, good recipe.

  3. Oh, and you NEVER use white wine with tomato-based sauces in Italy…also, the use of bacon is very.. "american"

    1. Thanks for the comments, Roberto 🙂 You are right on the money – white wine is not typically used (I can see Marcella Hazan shuddering at the thought of it) and the pork of choice, as mentioned in my post above, is guanciale (basically the cured jaw of the pig). Thick cut pancetta is a good stand-in, but bacon is the least authentic of the three. While guanciale is my favorite, on nights that I have a bit of thick cut bacon in the fridge, I will absolutely make this sauce with it (or carbonara if I have eggs and locatelli). The wine is actually used for this purpose – the bacon tends to stick as it renders, leaving lovely browned bits on the bottom of the pan that are released when the wine is added.

      As for the bucatini, I adore it (and yes, it is the traditional pasta for Amatriciana) – the hole in the middle manages to sop up extra sauce, and the weight of the pasta is irresistible. I used spaghetti here because that was what I was served from my little mom and pop place in Orvieto, for which this post was an ode. I also just posted a bucatini recipe and didn't want it to seem like I only eat bucatini. I am an equal-opportunity pasta eater 🙂


  4. I love spaghetti! are my passion! and the recipe is like we do in Italy,except that we use bucatini! good!

    1. Me too! I adore bucatini (or perciatelli as they sometimes label it here in the states) – it's perfect for soaking up even more sauce than plain old spaghetti. No wonder bucatini is the traditional pasta served with Sugo Amatriciana. Thanks for visiting my site 🙂

    1. Absolutely! The wine isn't even super traditional – just a way to deglaze the pan, so flavorful chicken stock is a great substitute.

  5. This is one of my favorite ways to eat pasta.  I used to live in New York, and Lupa in the west village has an AMAZING amatriciana.  I miss it, so I can’t wait to try yours!

    1. It doesn’t do Lupa justice, but it helps a curb an Amatriciana craving just fine 😉  Dammit, now I’m missing New York!

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