While visiting Cortona, Italy in 2007, I had a memorable lunch on a terrace one day. It was a simple meal of bucatini all’amatriciana, a glass of Chianti and some vanilla gelato for dessert. Simple though it was, it remains one of my favourite dining experiences: stunning views, beautiful weather, good company and food that was simple yet perfect. When making recipes that rely on few ingredients, it’s important that you use the best quality you can find.
I was reminded of that lunch recently when I was trying to figure out something to make for dinner that was quick and easy. Even though this is typically a summer sauce, it works for cooler months when you can use good quality canned tomatoes. It’s the perfect dish when the weather is gloomy and you want to be reminded of warm, lazy summer afternoons.
Bucatini is a long pasta that looks like thick spaghetti but is hollow in the centre, like a very long piece of macaroni. I prefer De Cecco brand but any kind will suffice. If you can’t find bucatini, use penne or spaghetti instead. Pancetta is made from Italian cured, unsmoked pork belly and is similar to bacon, while guincale is made from the pig’s jowls. Regular bacon can easily be substituted but it will give the dish a smokier flavour (however, it will still be delicious!).
An interesting note: bucatini all’amatriciana originated in the town of Amatrice in Lazio, about 180 kilometres from Cortona so it is not a traditionally Tuscan dish (Italian cooking is very regional!). However, it is popular throughout Italy and around the world.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
- 8 oz. (230 g) diced pancetta OR guincale OR bacon (about 5 rashers of bacon)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
- 28 oz. (796 ml) can good quality whole tomatoes
- 5.5 fl. oz. (156 ml) can tomato paste
- 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon sugar, to taste
- Salt to taste
- Optional: 2 Tablespoon fresh basil
- Grated pecorino romano OR parmesan cheese to finish
- 500 g (about 1 lb.) bucatini OR penne
- Heat an enameled cast iron pot or large skillet on medium-high heat and add pancetta/bacon cubes. Cook until they’re beginning to crisp, about 7 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Drain off all but 1 Tablespoon of the rendered fat from the bacon (if there is very little fat left in the pan, add 1 Tbsp. olive oil). Add onions and sauté until they’re beginning to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté for another minute.
- Add tomatoes and break up with a spoon. Reduce heat to medium low and let sauce simmer for about 20 minutes. Return pancetta/bacon to sauce, add tomato paste and season with sugar, salt and pepper. Add basil, if using. Let sauce simmer for another 10 minutes while the pasta is cooking. (See ‘How to Cook Perfect Pasta‘ for tips).
- Drain bucatini and add to sauce. Toss until pasta is evenly coated with sauce. Serve with grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese.
Buono Appetit and Enjoy!