It is no secret that I love being Italian and I love to cook. Most Italian food is very simple and, in that simplicity, comes happiness to the senses. Just writing this I can smell this sauce simmering, briefly, on my stove-top. The kitchen aura created an image of my grandmother Amelia, apron around her 4’10” 205-pound frame, wet hands ready to hold my face and kiss my cheek. What I wouldn’t give for that kiss just one more time.
So instead, I try to replicate and recreate her kitchen.
Italian sauces come in all range of flavors from bold and spicy, Arrabbiata to smooth and creamy Alfredo. Sugo all‘amatriciana is light and simple with some very complex undertones. Give it a shot and feel free to take liberty. You know I always do!
What you need:
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 ounces guanciale (See note below), cut into slices then into 1/4-inch strips or you may substitute pancetta, or chopped bacon.
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup, give or take, of dry white wine
- 3/4 cup of freshly minced onion
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
- 1 28-oz. canned, peeled San Marzano (See note below) tomatoes with the juices. You will crush them by hand.
- I like Maldon Sea Salt Flakes
- 12 oz. dried bucatini or linguine
- 1/4 cup grated Pecorino
- Guanciale is an Italian cured meat product prepared from pork jowl or cheeks. Its name is derived from guancia, the Italian word for ‘cheek’.
- Please use San Marzano, it is worth the extra $2. They are like my grandmother, strong yet sweet! These tomatoes are less acidic and have fewer seeds. Smooth is the key here.
What to do:
In a very large and deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high. Add your choice of meat whether guanciale, pancetta or bacon. Sprinkle in the pepper flakes and black pepper and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook, scraping the pan until nearly evaporated, about 3 minutes.
Add onion and garlic; cook frequently until soft, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes, again, crushing them by hand into the skillet. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 12-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally until just before al dente. Use a timer if you need it.
Drain the pasta and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Add the drained pasta to sauce in skillet and toss with tongs to coat. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water and cook until sauce coats bringing it just about to al dente.
You can add a little more of the pasta water if it appears too dry.
Stir in cheese, don’t be stingy, and serve.
Sidebar: this is spectacular on a traditional pizza with sausage, mushrooms, anchovies if you like them. Make a little more and freeze it for dinner on the fly.