I first experienced the Roman Italian dish called Amatriciana in an amazing little restaurant in Rome, it was tiny and had about five tables in total. It was run by a local husband and wife, the husband looked after diners and the wife cooked the food. And what food! It wasn’t fancy or over the top, instead it was simple, fresh and delicious home cooked fare that focused on flavour.
The Amatriciana served here consisted of a fresh tomato sauce that was packed full of rich tomato flavour with a hint of chilli heat, twirled into a freshly made spaghetti-like pasta called Bucatini. It had little salty strips of pork scattered throughout, they were chunkier then bacon and closely resembled pancetta, on further research this was probably Guanciale.
I have used smoked streaky bacon in my version below, but you could easily use pancetta or if you can find it in your local supermarket or butchers. Or if you you are lucky enough to find it – Guanciale, to make a more authentic dish.
The key to cooking this is to gently cook the onions for at least fifteen minutes allowing them to soften and add lots of flavour, then adding the tomatoes and stirring occasionally, keeping the sauce on a low heat for a minimum of thirty minutes. The longer cooking time is what contributes to the intense tomato flavour that makes Amatriciana so heavenly to eat.
For the recipe below to easily skin the tomatoes, cut a shallow line across the top of each and place them in a heat proof bowl, add boiling water and leave for 30 seconds before then plunging them into cold water – the skins should now peel off with ease.
Also try and use the reddest ripest tomatoes you can find – it really does make a difference to the overall flavour of this Amatriciana dish. I like my Amatriciana served with a good grind of pepper and a grating of Parmesan on the top, but I think the more traditional cheese is Pecorino Romano if you can find it.
- 400g Fresh Tomatoes, peeled and diced with the hard white core removed.
- 400g Tin of Chopped Tomatoes
- ½ a large onion, sliced
- 2 Cloves of garlic, crushed
- ½ Teaspoon of Tomato Puree
- Pinch of dried Chilli Flakes
- ½ Teaspoon of sugar
- 4 Rashers of bacon, cut into matchsticks.
- Drizzle of Olive Oil
- Add the oil to a large saucepan, add the onion and gently fry over a low heat for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the garlic and chilli flakes, fry for a minute. Add the tomato puree, sugar, fresh and tinned tomatoes and reduce to a medium/low heat.
- In a small frying pan, dry fry the bacon matchsticks until crispy, drain off any oil and add to the tomato sauce.
- Keep the sauce on a low to medium heat for at least 30 minutes, it should reduce a little and thicken. Taste, and season as required (you may not need any salt!)
- Then turn the heat as low as possible, and in a seperate saucepan add boiling water and the pasta of your choice. Cook according to packet instructions, drain and serve.
- Top with a little grated Parmesan.