Amatriciana sauce

This series of articles highlights some of our favorite culinary offerings around the world. For us, the joy of travel is inextricably linked to eating well, and we like to recreate our favorites at home. Join us as we share some of our best travel stories and then take our turn cooking the iconic dishes that make our travels so special. Check out some previous installments herehere, and here.

There is something special about Rome. The history, the culture, the people, the energy, and most of all, the food.

My birthday weekend this year was spent in Rome, which is arguably one of the best places in the world to find yourself on your birthday, especially if you are a pasta lover. I knew I couldn’t leave Rome without some real, traditional Roman pasta, even if my celiac disease meant I would suffer the consequences afterwards.

The city is home to a handful of classic pasta dishes, all simple combinations of the same ingredients. With just six ingredients, you can make the four different, classic Roman pasta dishes: alla Gricia, Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe, and Amatriciana.

Rome

Each dish is simple, easy to execute, and loaded with flavor. Even the pedestrian sounding Cacio e Pepe (meaning cheese and pepper), is just a plate of pasta tossed with Pecorino Romano, a generous portion of crushed black pepper, and a little ladle of the pasta water.

Yet, with the strange voodoo that Italians have with generating major flavor from minimal effort, the effect is profound.

RomeFood-4-min

Everyone has their preference among these four classic dishes. Julie is an outspoken fan of Carbonara (guanicale, black pepper, Pecorino Romano, and fresh egg yolks), with the alla Gricia (guanicale, Pecorino Romano, black pepper) coming in a close second.

My favorite? Amatriciana sauce, an ideal blend of tomatoes, guanicale, black pepper, and Pecorino Romano. It is not a heavy, thick, sweet, Italian-American red sauce, that has to simmer for hours on end. It is light and fresh, and takes no more time to cook than it does to boil water for pasta.

Amatriciana sauce

Pasta with Amatriciana Sauce

250g (1/2 pound) fresh pasta
2 400g (14oz) tins of whole tomatoes
1 large onion, thinly sliced into half moons
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
80g (3oz) guanicale, sliced thinly (can substitute pancetta or speck if necessary)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated finely
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper

To begin, crush the tomatoes by hand in a bowl and set aside.

Amatriciana sauce

Amatriciana sauce

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over moderate heat, and add the guanicale. Let the guanicale cook slowly for about 10 minutes. You want to avoid any deep browning, as you are looking to mostly render the fat from the meat. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and continue cooking for 5-8 minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Raise the heat to high and toss in the crushed red pepper and black pepper, allowing them to cook for just 10-15 seconds.

Amatriciana sauce

At the crushed tomatoes with a pinch of salt (add the contents of both cans if you like pasta with more sauce. I prefer lightly sauced like the Italians, so 1 to 1 1/2 cans works fine), let it come to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the the sauce simmer for 10 minutes.

Amatriciana sauce

In a large pot, add water and bring to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt to the water and add the fresh pasta. It will only take about 3 minutes for the fresh pasta to cook (if using dried, follow the instructions on the pack). Ladle 1/2 cup of the pasta water into your tomato sauce, then drain the pasta and add directly to the pan. Toss the pasta with the Amatriciana sauce until full incorporated. Add the Pecorino Romano and toss vigorously.

Plate the pasta in a bowl, and shower with more Pecorino Romano and crushed red pepper flakes.

Amatriciana Sauce

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  • March 19, 2016

    Like pretty much all Italian food, Pasta alla Amatriciana looks unbelievable. A birthday weekend in Rome is such a great way to go, although not sure the pants would fit for the trip home. 🙂 Thanks for sharing the recipe.
    Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie recently posted…15 Things to Do in Prague for First-TimersMy Profile

    • March 20, 2016
      Julie

      Yeah, pants fitting post any Italian trip is a huge issue. They never do, but it’s always worth it 🙂

  • March 20, 2016

    Mamma Mia! Che buono! And by the way, spending a Birthday in Italy is ALWAYS a good idea. I spent mine in the beautiful countryside of Tuscany two years ago 🙂 As for your recipe – i told Ben I will cook this next week – it seems relatively easy and looks divine. I do love my Carbonara as well, though… 🙂
    Tess Andrade recently posted…What is the best way to learn a new Language?My Profile

    • March 20, 2016
      Julie

      Well your birthday last year didn’t look so bad either in the Philippines! I am a total sucker for cabonara…if it wasn’t so ‘not great’ to eat every day, I probably would! Well that and ice cream. And donuts. 🙂

  • March 20, 2016

    OMG I am starving and now that Amatriciana sauce has me drooling over the keyboard. Looks delicious. 😉

    • March 20, 2016
      Julie

      We should definitely begin any posts on food with a disclaimer about that – I cannot stand to see pretty food photos when I’m the least bit hungry!

  • March 20, 2016

    The photos are making me hungry! I would definitely try out the recipe.
    Bernard Tan recently posted…5 types of people everyone hates on the plane!My Profile

    • March 20, 2016
      Julie

      Thanks Bernard – it’s one of the easiest things, even I can make it!

  • March 20, 2016

    Mmmm great recipe. The Italians certainly do have a way with producing the best pasta sauces!

    • March 20, 2016
      Julie

      Right!! And it always seems so completely effortless. Like it’s in their blood 🙂

  • March 20, 2016

    I can never say no to a good tomato sauce, especially quick and healthy ones! It looks like an amazing recipe, got to give it a try. If only Rome was a little closer to Singapore!
    Mar Pages recently posted…Swept to winter romance at The Ritz Carlton Half Moon BayMy Profile

  • March 21, 2016

    This looks spectacular! I’ve been really making an effort to cook more when I’m at home, so I’ll have to try this.
    Mags recently posted…ZUS by Nonda, Never Lose Your Car AgainMy Profile

    • March 21, 2016
      Julie

      Well, if you’re not a regular home cook, this is definitely the dish for you to try! Even I can make it 🙂

  • March 21, 2016

    Well, you just solved what we’re having for dinner! Bringing a taste of Rome to our kitchen in Cambodia tonight 🙂 Pasta alla Amatriciana looks so delicious and easy to make. Thanks for this!
    Jen Joslin recently posted…Transportation in Phnom PenhMy Profile

    • March 21, 2016

      Glad we could provide some Italian inspiration to Cambodia! It’s a great, simple recipe that always makes me think of Rome. Plus, it’s delicious!