Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pasta alla Amatriciana

Preparation time: 20 minutes.
Details: approx. €10 to serve 4 people.

Many of you might remember that we have already talked about the real ancestor of this pasta recipe: the famous and delightful Pasta Alla Gricia. This two pasta recipes share their history together as both of them were meant to sustain shepherds in the Lazio region during transhumance days (i.e. the seasonal movement of people with their livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures).

It's not surprising then that Pasta all'Amatriciana is just Pasta alla Gricia with the addition of....tomato sauce! Many people say that this pasta is the definite completion of Pasta alla Gricia, that reaches its perfection when it becomes "all'Amatriciana". I love both recipes, and strongly think that both of them have the dignity to be thought as "distinct recipes".

Pasta all'Amatriciana takes its name from the city where it's from: Amatrice. Here (and in Rome's deli shops) you can find the n.1 ingredient for this recipe: guanciale di Amatrice. Guanciale is cured pork jowl, and has a unique, mild, intensely piggy flavor. Obviously you don't need Amatrice's guanciale necessarily (at least if you live abroad), and you can use any other Guanciale available at the shop (it must be rigorously Italian, of course). Please never prepare an Amatriciana with Pancetta or Irish Bacon. Seriuosly, Don't do it!

The preparation is really easy, and once again:


This is all you need:
  • 1 tbsp E-V olive oil
  • 150 gr. Guanciale (you can find it at Best of Italy or Fallon&Byrne in Dublin, or buy it online!)
  • 120 gr. Pecorino cheese  (easily found at Superquinn, Fresh, Best of Italy, Fallon&Byrne)
  • 400 gr. Pomodori Pelati (pelati/chopped tomatoes)
  • 500 gr. Spaghetti or Bucatini or Rigatoni 
  • 1 chili pepper
  • half glass white wine
  • salt, pepper
Bring your well-salted pasta water to a boil. While the water is heating, slice the guanciale thinly into narrow strips and grate the Pecorino. Place the guanciale in a cold pan with a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and place over medium heat; the olive oil helps to render the fat evenly and acts as a conduit, transferring the flavor from the pan to the pasta.

When the guanciale strips are starting to get translucent, add less than half glass of white wine. Leave the guanciale on the fire for 1 minute max, waiting for the wine to evaporate and add the Pelati tomatoes. Mix all together and season with salt, pepper and a 1 chili pepper. Continue to cook the sauce for 10 minutes, tossing the mix from time to time. 

As soon as you add the tomatoes and the sauce starts to take shape, put the pasta in the boiling water and drain it when it reaches its "al dente" texture. We used rigatoni for this recipe...I love how they mix and dance with the sauce! Quickly add the drained pasta to the pan and turn on the heat. Toss the pasta vigorously coating with the sauce made of guanciale and tomatoes, grinding some black pepper on it. After about 1-2 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and add the previously grated Pecorino (it should not melt on the pasta, so remove the pan from the heat before this step!).

We could say that this recipe is simple, authentic, historical, delicious, etc. I'd say it's Orgasmic. I just can't find other proper words to define it.

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