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Bucatini all'Amatriciana

Introduction

This is a house speciality and one of the 'classic' variants that I mention in Spaghetti all Gricia. I tend to think of it as 'Gricia in a winter coat'.

Guanciale also known as pig's cheek bacon (guancia = cheek) is a subtle fatty meat with an un-rivalled flavour. It has started to turn up in good Italian delis, but I cure my own.

This dish is about about pasta and pork, so avoid the temptation to increase the other ingredients, you want to coat the pasta not drown it.

There is a debate as to whether this should be made with onion or garlic or a combination. I tend to use one or the other, am less happy with the result of using both. See suggestion.

Bucatini

Tips

It's all about the quality of the cured pork. Guanciale or pancetta (un-smoked), bacon just won't do. And don't use any lean products, this is all about the fat.

Bucatini, the pasta with the hole, can be found in different thicknesses. I prefer the thicker variety for this dish.

If you can't find Pecorino, try Osau Iraty or another firm sheep's cheese. Parmesan can be used but it's not as pungent.

Bucatini

Ingredients

Measures available: Metric  Imperial  U.S.

  • 400g Bucatini
  • 240g Guanciale or 200g Pancetta (unsmoked), cut into lardons
  • ½ a medium-sized onion, sliced
  • 1 small red dried chili, de-seeded and chopped or a large pinch of hot red pepper flakes
  • 240ml passata or tomato sauce
  • salt & pepper
  • 75-100g pecorino cheese
  • A large handful of leaves taken from a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 14 oz Bucatini
  • 8 oz Guanciale or 7 oz Pancetta (unsmoked), cut into lardons
  • 1 small or ½ a medium-sized onion, sliced
  • 1 small red dried chili, de-seeded and chopped or a large pinch of hot red pepper flakes
  • 8 oz passata or basic tomato sauce
  • salt & pepper
  • 3-3½ oz pecorino cheese
  • A large handful of leaves taken from a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 14 oz Bucatini
  • 8 oz Guanciale or 7oz Pancetta (unsmoked), cut into lardons
  • 1 small or ½ a medium-sized onion, sliced
  • 1 small red dried chili, de-seeded and chopped or a large pinch of hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup passata or basic tomato sauce
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup of grated pecorino (romano) cheese
  • A large handful of leaves taken from a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Tools of the Trade

  • Slotted draining spoon
  • A timer for the pasta

Home-cured Guanciale

Method

Place the lardons of guanciale or pancetta into a pan, big enough to hold all of the pasta, and cook over a gentle heat, turning the pieces occasionally, to render the fat; the guanciale will render more fat.

Remove and drain the lardons. If using guanciale, leave 1-2 tablespoons of the rendered fat in the pan.

Add the onion and chopped chili or red pepper flakes to the pan and cook gently for 2 minutes. Increase the heat, add the lardons and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, then add the tomato.

Once the tomato starts to spit, reduce the heat and allow the sauce to simmer and reduce for 5 minutes. Season to taste.

Meanwhile cook the bucatini in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente. Never trust the timing on the packet. Time for five minutes then test a strand of pasta every 30-60 seconds thereafter.

Guanciale cut into lardons

 

Drain the pasta, keeping back ½ cup of pasta water. Add the drained pasta to the pan with the tomato sauce and toss. If the sauce is too thick add a tablespoon or two of the pasta water. Toss for a couple of minutes and taste again for seasoning. Remove the pan from the heat source add the chopped parsley and toss for a minute more.

Serve with grated pecorino.

Suggestion

Substitute three cloves of garlic for the onion and gently fry them in a tablespoon of olive oil until light golden brown. Discard the garlic and add the oil to the sauce.