Thursday, April 26, 2012

How to Make Pasta all'Amatriciana

When I was about to come home from my first stay in Italy it dawned on me that when I come home, everyone is going to want to know if I can cook Italian. Since I didn't, and since I am not a very good cook in general, I decided to focus all my energy on learning just one dish. That way, when I got home I could show off and ideally fool people into being impressed that I was a good cook. I needed a typical Roman dish that was not too difficult but delicious. Ladies and gentlemen, pasta all'amatriciana.

Okay let's start off with some ingredients:

  • If you want to be fancy, the pasta should be bucatini (above), but spaghetti or linguine will work fine
  • Tomato puree - it is important that you do not get tomato sauce, in which they add basil and about a hundred preservatives. It comes in a can and has 1 ingredient: tomatoes. We Americans seem to have difficulty keeping things simple sometimes; in Italy, remember all the glass bottles of passata di pomodoro? Yeah, that's what you're looking for.  My personal go-to is a brand called TuttoRosso in a green can, but any will work as long as they don't add too much stuff that's not tomato.
  • Cubed Pancetta - this is the toughest one to find in the USA. It will look like this and can be found in the larger supermarkets or Italian grocers.
  • Grated pecorino cheese
  • Basil
  • Red pepper (the spicy kind)
  • Salt
  • Olive Oil
  • Onion
  • Optional (but better): red or white wine
1. Ok start off with a frying pan deep enough to hold all the sauce, coated with olive oil, cut up 1/4-1/2 of the onion very small and fry it for maybe a minute. 
2. Add the pancetta (half a package for 2-3 people, the whole package for 4-6), a splash of wine if you have it, and a little basil and red pepper to taste (be conservative, you can always add more later). 
3. Let all this simmer for a couple minutes - you should have a good aroma going here that will make your neighbors really jealous. Let the wine evaporate a little.
4. Now it's time to add the tomato puree. One normal-sized can should be enough for 2-3 people and a large can for 4-6. Add a spoonful or so of grated pecorino cheese. Stir it all together, adding salt until it tastes good (the pecorino will help with salt). 
5. Let this cook on a low flame for about 30-45 minutes.
6. Make the pasta, combine and add a little grated pecorino on top! 

(Just a note, the picture above is made differently, don't worry about making yours like it; it was just the best-looking picture I found).

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