Spaghetti Amatriciana is a classic Italian dish that is much easier to make than you might think. I used Bucatini and substituted pancetta for guanciale for the pictures below.
Traditionally Sugo all’Amatriciana is an Italian red sauce from the town of Amatrice, Italy. The sauce uses guanciale as the main flavoring agent, along with onions, garlic, good plum tomatoes, coarse black pepper, chili flakes, and pecorino cheese.
When I think of bucatini pasta recipes I think of Amatriciana. Bucatini is what you see in the picture, but I make this delicious sauce with many types of pasta.
Rigatoni Amatriciana is amazing as is spaghetti and penne. Really any pasta that can hold up to the sauce is fine. I will be referring to this dish as spaghetti Amatriciana because nearly everyone has full access to good spaghetti. Bucatini can be harder to come by.
Accessing the next ingredient known as guanciale might be challenging. Guanciale is basically a way better version of bacon. It’s peppery and has a super strong flavor. It’s a non-smoked cured meat derived from pork jowls.
Due to it’s high price tag, I usually only buy it on special occasions. In the New York metro area, it ranges from about $30-40 per pound. I have seen cheaper prices on Amazon but can not vouch for the quality.
Pancetta is a good substitute for guanciale in spaghetti Amatriciana. Pancetta is also non-smoked so it has a similar flavor though not quite as robust as guanciale. Pancetta is a rolled cured pork belly which has a different flavor than the guanciale pork jowls.
As a last resort, you can use bacon. Totally fine if you can’t find the guanciale or pancetta. Reality has to hit tradition sometimes. You can still make a great meal with bacon so don’t let not finding one ingredient stop you!
How To Make Spaghetti Amatriciana
- Picture of pasta, two 28 ounce cans of tomatoes, 10 ounces of pancetta, onion and garlic.
- Chop 1 cup of onion.
- Rough chop the garlic.
- Saute the pancetta in a 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil on medium to medium-low heat. If using guanciale cut into thin 1 inch strips and saute in the same manner.
- Crush the plum tomatoes with your hands in a large bowl. I do this in the sink with one hand and use the other hand to shield from splashing.
- After sauteing the pancetta for 7-8 minutes add 1 tsp of crushed red pepper and 1 tsp of coarse black pepper to the oil. Saute for 30 seconds.
- Add the chopped onion and garlic and saute for 7-8 minutes more.
- After 7-8 minutes the onions should be translucent.
- Add the crushed plum tomatoes to the pancetta and start cooking the sauce on medium.
- After the sauce starts bubbling turn the heat down to low and let the Amatriciana sauce cook for 15 minutes. During this time start cooking the pasta in salted water.
- When the pasta is almost finished boiling reserve 2 cups of pasta water in a mug as shown.
- Drain the pasta and get ready to finish the dish. Remove 2 cups of sauce from the pan and reserve for later if needed. Add 3/4 cup of pasta water and the pasta to the sauce pan. Turn heat to medium and cook for 1 minute to let the starches from the water and the sauce combine to coat the spaghetti. Add a 1/2 cup of pecorino to the pasta and mix it all together. The pasta is now ready to be served.
- If the sauce is too thick add a little bit more pasta water, and if more sauce is needed feel free to add it.
Serve the spaghetti Amatriciana with more crushed black pepper, crushed pepper flakes, and pecorino cheese.
Of course that extra sauce would go real well with a nice loaf of Italian bread.
Remember that extra sauce is nice to have! Some people prefer more sauce than others. A lot of the recipes for this dish use way too little sauce for a pound of pasta in my opinion. I always like to have extra just in case.
What Is bucatini?
Bucatini is basically a hollow spaghetti. Great for heavy sauces like Amatriciana, Bolognese, and cream sauces. I don’t think it would work well in a garlic and oil, or a primavera.
Where To Buy Bucatini?
Where I live, I can find it anywhere. This might not be the case for you. Traditionally this dish is known as Bucatini all’Amatriciana but who says it can’t be spaghetti Amatriciana?
If you really want the bucatini, I know Amazon sells it. If you do have access to Italian specialty stores bucatini should be easy to find.
Spaghetti Amatriciana Difficulty Level:
I am going with a 3 out of 5 with 1 being the easiest. The potential issues when making pasta is typically not following the directions.
Whatever pasta you decide to use make sure to undercook it by at least one minute. The pasta will be al dente and can be finished in the sauce like shown in picture 12. This is important to get the sauce to really stick and it is a step that many do not follow.
Also the pasta water is essential to make that sauce stick to the pasta. Read this Serious Eats Pasta Water Article for more info.
As far as the guanciale vs pancetta debate in this dish. Hands down the guanciale will be better. Buy it if you can find it.
Also don’t forget the good pecorino.
And one last tip is to crack the peppercorns with a meat mallet. That really brings out the peppery bites in this sauce that it is famous for.
Other Great Pasta Recipes:
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A classic Italian recipe. Spaghetti Amatriciana made with pancetta, pecorino, garlic, onions, coarse black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.
- 1 pound spaghetti or bucatini
- 10 ounces pancetta
- 2 28 ounce cans of plum tomatoes
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 3 cloves chopped garlic
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper
- 1 tsp coarse black pepper
- 2 cup pasta water
Chop the garlic and onion. In a large pan saute the pancetta in the 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil for 7-8 minutes on medium.
Next add the crushed red pepper and coarse black pepper to the pan and saute for 30 seconds. Add the garlic and onions into the pan and saute for 7-8 minutes more.
Next add the crushed tomatoes to the pan and cook on medium until they start to bubble. Turn the heat down to low and let the sauce cook for 15-20 minutes uncovered while boiling the pasta.
Cook Pasta to al dente which is about 1 minute less than the package instructions in salted water. Reserve 2 cups of pasta water.
Stir, remove, and set aside 2 cups of the sauce. Cook the pasta in the remaining sauce along with 3/4 cups of pasta water for 1-2 minutes on medium heat. Stir well and make sure the pasta is absorbing the sauce.
Stir in 1/2 cup of pecorino and turn off heat. Add a touch more pasta water if too dry. Add a touch more sauce if needed from the reserved portion. Plate and serve with more pecorino cheese. Enjoy!
2 Tablespoons of kosher salt should be used for boiling pasta.
The recipe has extra sauce which is always a good thing. When made with only one 28 ounce can of tomatoes there is never enough sauce for a pound of pasta.
Guanciale is preferred but hard to find.
No salt is added because of the saltiness of the pancetta and the added pasta water. Add more salt if you like.
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