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How to Make Pasta all'Amatriciana

Pasta all’Amatriciana is a classic recipe of the Roman cuisine and also one of my favorites. The rich pasta sauce recipe originated hundreds of years ago in Amatrice, a small mountain town not too far from Rome, with a good name for excellent cuisine. In the past, in fact, some of the Popes hired their personal chefs just among the cooks of Amatrice.

The Amatriciana sauce recipe includes Guanciale (unsmoked cured pork cheek, very similar to Pancetta), Pecorino cheese and tomato sauce, although this last ingredient was added to the recipe only in the 20th century. Before the tomato sauce addition, the dish was known as Pasta alla Gricia, still a very popular pasta dish in Rome – but that’s material for another recipe.

Tradition wants Amatriciana sauce over Spaghetti or Bucatini pasta (literally “having a small hole”, being in fact a thick type of spaghetti with a hole in the center); Rigatoni and Penne are often used as well, like in my recipe below, which is for 4-6 servings.

Note: since some of the original ingredients can be hard to find outside the Italian border, I am also giving some good substitutes you can find in your neck of the woods.

Ingredients and Instructions:

  1. Start cutting the Guanciale or Pancetta in small pieces. Cut the garlic in half, sauté over medium fire with the olive oil for about 1 minute, until starts to golden. Remove the garlic from the pan, add the Guanciale and let cook for about 5 minutes, until slightly brown.

  2. At this point add the tomatoes and the small chili pepper (Peperoncino) without breaking it. Let cook for about 10 or 15 minutes, until the sauce has a good smooth consistency and is not too liquid. Remove the chili pepper, salt and pepper to taste, and set aside to rest.

  3. Cook the pasta in abundant salted water, remove from fire when "al dente", drain and toss in the pan with the sauce and mix well. Add the grated Pecorino cheese, mix again and serve immediately, topping with some chopped basil.

Wine pairing for Amatriciana:

In my opinion, a rich dish like Amatriciana pasta would be best paired with a light and vibrant red wine, like an Italian Sangiovese or Rosso di Montalcino. However, all around Rome and the area of origin of the dish, people would commonly pair it even with a medium-body white wine, like Greco di Tufo or Vernaccia.

As non-Italian alternative, I also recommend wines like a fruity Zinfandel or a Sauvignon Blanc.

Buon Appetito!

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