This is one of the – many say four – classic Roman pasta dishes, and one of my absolute favorite pasta dishes of all. I got introduced to it at university, when me and a couple of girls from the fencing team had a cooking night together. As it happens, one of the girls had just returned from studying in Rome for a year and she suggested the recipe. It certainly left an impression on me – not only for culinary reasons, but also for the fun we had that night making the dish together. Now, many years later, I lost contact with my team mates but certainly still remember this and other adventures we had together so many years ago whenever I am cooking this dish.
Instead of bucatini, which are not always that readily available, you can of course also use spaghetti. In fact, I understand that people from Amatrice (the place lending its name to the dish) will probably insist that is has to be spaghetti. I, personally, go with the Romans here and find it a little bit nicer with bucatini, but everyone of course decide for themselves. 🙂
Ingredients (serves 2):
- 200 grams of bucatini (or spaghetti)
- 3-4 ripe San Marzano or vine tomatoes
- ca. 100-120 grams of guanciale, cut into cubes
- 1/2 red or yellow onion, sliced
- 1/4 of a chili
- cooking white wine
- Freshly ground pepper, salt
- ca. 60 grams of ground Pecorino cheese
- Skin the tomatoes by making a cross-shaped incision at the bottom. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Lower the tomatoes into the boiling water and let simmer for 20-30 seconds. Remove from the hot water and place in a large bowl of cold water. Let cool down, the peel off the skin. Cut into cubes and set aside (do not remove the seeds/inside of the tomatoes).
- Add ca. 1 teaspoon of salt to the water used for skinning the tomatoes. Use this water to boil the bucatini (for a standard 10 minute cooking time, I usually add the pasta to the boiling water once the guanciale starts sizzling, and set the timer on 8 minutes).
- Tip the guanciale into a cold pan and gradually heat up to medium heat. As the guanciale starts releasing the fat, make sure that the fat does not turn brown/dark, and lower the temperature should it get too dark.
- Add the onion to the guanciale when it start to turn crispy on the outside. Fry together for around 1 minute, then add the chili, continue frying briefly and then deglaze with a generous dash of white wine.
- Let the wine reduce to around half and add the tomatoes.
- When the pasta is done, add it to the pan, season with freshly ground pepper and salt and cook it for another 2 minutes in the sauce. Add a little bit of the pasta water should the sauce get too dry, although note that the goal is not to obtain a very liquid sauce.
- When done, remove from the heat and add two thirds of the pecorino to thicken the sauce.
- Serve in pasta dishes sprinkled with the remaining pecorino.