Spaghetti all’Amatriciana

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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.

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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.

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Spaghetti all’Amatriciana
Adapted from Roma: Authentic Recipes from In and Around the Eternal City
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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
salt
2 tbsp Pecorino Romano, grated
1/2 lbs. spaghetti

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Add the tomatoes and their juices to the skillet. Scrap up any browned bits. Simmer the tomato sauce for 30 minutes.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Serve with additional Pecorino Romano to sprinkle on top.

Serves 2 to 3.

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8 Responses to “Spaghetti all’Amatriciana”


  1. 1 Susannah December 6, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    Looks delicious — like a cross between pasta carbonara and a traditional spaghetti. I’ll have to try it; thanks for posting the recipe!

  2. 2 Matt December 6, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    The only similarity to spaghetti alla carbonara is the use of pancetta. Pancetta is used in a number of different pastas in Italy (including Ragu Bolognese).

  3. 3 Cindy December 6, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    You really did a good job making me hungry here!

  4. 4 Christina December 7, 2007 at 11:55 am

    This is one of the most simple yet satisfying pasta dishes out there; it’s one of my favorites. Your recipe seems pretty authentic to me!

  5. 5 theramblinghousewife December 9, 2007 at 5:44 am

    I am typically not a big fan of spaghetti/ or pasta in general, really. But this one looks really good–My husband loves spaghetti–so I’m definitely going to give this recipe a try this week! Thanks! :)

  6. 6 giorgia December 10, 2007 at 2:49 am

    Susannah – it’s not “a cross between pasta carbonara (actually, it’s “pasta alla carbonara” – prepositions and definite articles matter.) and a traditional spaghetti”, it’s just a recipe on its own. Also, it all depends on what you refer to when you speak of “(a) traditional spaghetti” (I also don’t know whay you’re using an indefinite article here, as “spaghetti” is plural…), since there are so many recipes for pasta in general, and spaghetti in particular, none of them can be referred to as of the one and only “traditional”. Especially *not* spaghetti with meatballs, which I understand is what most foreigners think is the “traditional” way of having spaghetti – in Italy nobody would ever eat that, so there you go… ;)

    p.s.: it’s “bucatini”, not “bucattini”. :)

  7. 7 giorgia December 10, 2007 at 2:52 am

    Edit – a recipe *of* its own.

    Sorry. :)

  8. 8 G. LaScola January 20, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Unfortunately, this isn’t “Amatrice” style. There is contention between Romans and the people from the town “Amatrice” regarding the true originators of the sauce and its contents. The Romans use Pancetta, olive oil, and onions. In Amatrice, they do no use Pancetta and maintain one must use guanciale (cured pig jowl) instead. Plus, they do not use onions or olive oil, and don’t use Bucatini, but a thicker noodle (which I personally don’t see as mattering all that much, but Italians are sensitive and detailed when it comes to their dishes :).

    The recipe above is great the Roman way (which I love), but I thought I’d at least point out the difference in “authentic” amatriciana recipes.


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