Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

I have been blogging for more than two years and I can't believe that I haven't shared one of my favorite pasta dishes yet.  The other one that shares its glory in my eyes is Gricia or Amatriciana Bianca (White Amatriciana).  It's the same as this amatriciana but without the tomatoes.  If you click on the link, you will also find out about its history and that amatriciana was actually originally white from the 12th century, before the tomatoes were introduced to Italy in the 17th century.

Before, my husband and I would travel the 200 km. trip to Amatrice and another 200 km. to go back home just to have spaghetti all'amatriciana for lunch. Eating the genuine one in our favorite restaurant cannot compare to anything we have tried outside the town even in Rome where it is very popular.  After experimenting a bit, I was able to come up with a fairly decent amatriciana that made us lessen our trips to Amatrice.

I could cook spaghetti all'amatriciana everyday, white or red, but guanciale is not really an everyday food so I keep it as infrequent as I could even if my family and I are crazy about these two kinds of pasta.  When I cook amatriciana, it's, as you can imagine, party time in our house.  The kids are incredibly disciplined, arriving in the kitchen way too early even if I haven't called out yet, hands already washed & forks already in their hands.

Making the perfect amatriciana relies completely on the three ingredients that you use.  Pecorino dei Monte Sibillini has a mild flavor as compared to Pecorino Romano, but it's hard to find, that even here, I have a hard time looking for it.  If you only have access to Pecorino Romano, then at least mix it with Parmigiano Reggiano to make it taste lighter.  It's not the same but it will do.  Guanciale is different from pancetta as it is totally different from bacon.  Like the pecorino, it should also be hard to find so you can replace it with pancetta but not bacon.  The kind of tomatoes you use makes a very big difference.  I use the tasty ones and my favorite types of tomatoes are datterini, san marzano or ciliegini (cherry).  I almost always use the canned ones.  Based on my experience, not all canned or bottled tomatoes taste the same after cooking.  When I cannot find the right tomatoes and use it for cooking any pasta sauce, I am left with an insipid tomato sauce and questioning looks from my son to my husband.  Tomato problem?  

It's Friday again.  I hope you all have a great weekend!  I'll pop in tomorrow or on Sunday again for something special. 

Spaghetti all' Amatriciana

Serves 4
  • 250 g. guanciale (If you really cannot find it, substitute with pancetta.)
  • 600 g. canned datterini, san marzano or ciliegini tomatoes or any similarly tasty tomatoes 
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 400 g. spaghetti
  • Pecorino dei Monte Sibillini (This kind of pecorino cheese is hard to find.  You can also substitute with a mixture of 50% Pecorino Romano and 50% Parmigiano Reggiano.), grated
  1. Toast the guanciale in a saucepan. When they are toasted, set aside in a plate. 
    Discard the excess oil from the guanciale, leaving just a little amount for cooking the tomatoes.  If you leave too much, the sauce will taste too much of pork.
  2. Using the same saucepan, add a little bit more extra virgin olive oil in addition to the oil of the guanciale, then add the tomatoes.  Cook for about 30 minutes.  5 minutes before finishing, add the toasted guanciale. 
  3. Meanwhile, while waiting for the sauce to cook, boil a pot of water for the pasta.  When the water boils, add salt and the pasta.  Cook the pasta following the number of minutes suggested in the package minus 1 minute.
  4. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss together for about a minute.
  5. Season with salt & pepper.
  6. Add the pecorino according to your taste.