Friday, June 14, 2013

Bucatini all'Amatriciana

It was our last day in Rome, and I knew exactly what I wanted to eat for dinner:  bucatini all'amatriciana.  I had read that, along with spaghetti carbonara, it was another pasta specialty of Rome.  Bucatini is a long, hollow pasta, kind of like a very narrow straw.  Cooking it all'amatriciana means pairing it with a tomato, guanciale, and pecorina based sauce.  I really wanted to try this fun new shape of pasta, and after having tasted what guanciale can do for carbonara, really wanted to taste it in a tomato sauce.

It was only late afternoon, way too early for a proper Italian dinner, but we had to catch the shuttle back to our hotel, so we found a sidewalk cafe in between two gelaterias we wanted to try:  Grom and Giolitti.  The restaurant's menu advertised a special for bucatini all'amatriciana along with bruschetta and a drink.  Ces and I decided to share the special, and I ordered a Fanta, which in Rome was much more like an Orangina than the disgustingly artificial Fanta we have in the States.

The bucatini came out, and we tucked in.  To say that we liked it would be a gross understatement.  It was so good, I totally forgot to take a picture of it.  I didn't even take down the name of the restaurant, and sadly, I can't seem to find it on Google Maps even though I know exactly where it is.  The bucatini was as fun to eat as I imagined, and the taste of the sauce haunted me all the way through customs in America.

I knew I had to try to make it back home, and luckily I had found a box of bucatini at a grocery store in Rome for only 89 cents.  There were a couple of different packages of bucatini at the Fiumicino airport going for €4-5, and I was almost tempted to pick up another package.  Thankfully, I didn't, because I managed to find two brands of bucatini being sold at Wegmans, and for much cheaper!  Isn't Wegmans the best?

Bucatini all'Amatriciana (adapted from Bon Appétit)
makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz. thinly sliced guanciale, pancetta, or chopped unsmoked bacon
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz. can peeled tomatoes with juices, crushed by hand
Kosher salt
12 oz. dried bucatini
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino (about 1 oz.)

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add guanciale and sauté until crisp and golden, about 4 minutes. Add pepper flakes and black pepper; stir for 10 seconds. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring often, until soft, about 8 minutes.

Add tomatoes, reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 15-20 minutes.  If desired, purée the sauce in a blender or with an immersion blender. 

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, for 9 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water.

Add drained pasta to sauce in skillet and toss vigorously with tongs to coat. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water and cook until sauce coats pasta and pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. (Add a little pasta water if sauce is too dry.) Stir in cheese and serve.

Updated:  Wow.  I just heated some leftovers up in the microwave for lunch today, and dare I say, it was even better?  Whatever loss of texture there might have been in the bucatini from the nuking was more than made up for by the guanciale regaining the crispness it had lost while simmering in the sauce.  Wow.  I can't wait to make this again just so I can eat it as a leftover!

Next:  Homemade Cronuts
Previously:  Spaghetti Carbonara for One
Three years ago:  Homemade Dulce de Leche and Dulce de Leche Ice Cream
Four years ago:  Bulgogi Dumplings


  1. Maybe I'm OCD but I always seed my tomatoes separately before adding it to the sauce. That allows you to blend the tomatoes beforehand, if desired. I don't blend a sauce with meat in it because of the tiny bits of meat that result. Instead, you can hold aside the meat after sautéing it, and re-add it after blending.

    You should give the different pasta brands a try and see what you think. My pasta book highly recommends the more expensive pasta which has been dried slower and has a matte rather than glossy finish, because of its texture and ability to adhere to sauces better. I generally buy DeCecco at the least and sometimes I spoil myself with something nicer when it's on sale.

    1. Thanks for the tip! I was too excited about the hand crushing part, but realized after the sauce was done that the tomato bits were still too big for my taste. Next time I'll probably hand crush them into a blender before adding to the sauce so I still have some fun while getting the texture I want. =)


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