As I’ve said before, simple pasta dishes appeal to me. There’s something infinitely satisfying about taking a few good ingredients and turning them into something spectacularly good. And while Dr. Atkins may not approve of a meal like this, it’s one of my favorites. It’s actually good enough that we served it as a course for Christmas last year (we served a meal in the Italian style).
This dish is becoming increasingly popular on Italian restaurant menus. Particularly, those that want to appear more authentically Italian (as opposed to Italian-American). The sad thing is that they seldom have an authenticity nor are they particularly good. Angela ordered one a few weeks ago that wasn’t spicy at all.
And, really, this is such a simple and fast dish that a restaurant should be able to do a very good rendition of it without too much effort. I would be fine if it wasn’t this most authentic but at least make it taste good. There’s no real excuse.
The recipe itself takes about 40 to 45 minutes to make. For me, that’s a pretty quick dinner (but not Rachel Ray speed). I usually prepare the ingredients and then start cooking the sauce. Once the tomatoes are added and they begin to simmer, I start boiling the water for the pasta. When the pasta’s done, I add it to the sauce and go from there.
I don’t know exactly how authentic this recipe is. It does use pancetta in place of guanciale (I would try to make some if I could find a local source for pork jowl). It also uses spaghetti in place of bucatini (bucati was available at Trader Joe’s for a month or so but was nearly impossible to actually eat). The taste seems pretty close to what I had in Rome but I don’t know how memory has influenced that. Either way, it’s still pretty tasty.
Adapted from Roma: Authentic Recipes from In and Around the Eternal City
1 tbsp olive oil
2 oz. pancetta, diced
1/4 cup diced onion
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes
2 tbsp Pecorino Romano, grated
1/2 lbs. spaghetti
- Place the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the pancetta and onion. Cook until the pancetta is browned.
- Add the red pepper flakes (add more or less depending on your taste) and the tomato paste. Stir well and allow to cook for one more minute.
- Add the tomatoes and their juices to the skillet. Scrap up any browned bits. Simmer the tomato sauce for 30 minutes.
- Bring salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti. Cook for one minute less than indicated on the package, about 7 minutes. Drain the spaghetti.
- Stir in half the Pecorino Romano into the sauce. Add the spaghetti and mix well. Cook for one minute more or until the pasta is al dente. Add the remaining Pecorino Romano.
- Serve with additional Pecorino Romano to sprinkle on top.
Serves 2 to 3.