This tomato sauce is a consummate example of Italy’s “cucina povera” (literally “poor kitchen”), a dish of making do, and so variations abound. It comes from the town of Amatrice in northeastern Lazio, where one of the specialties is pecorino cheese made from sheep’s milk. Purists might insist that the only acceptable cured pork in sugo all’Amatriciana is guanciale, similar to pancetta in usefulness, but made from the pig’s jowls, with a subtle flavor of its own. In a pinch, use panetta or another unsmoked bacon. Bucatini, which is like spaghetti, but with a hole in the center of the strands, is the traditional pasta; it offers an extra hearty bite. Spaghetti and penne rigate do the job just as well with this thick sauce, which is also delicious as a spread on crostini, or served with hot polenta. For the grating cheese, use something fairly sharp, like pecorino Romano or another aged sheep’s cheese, or a little Parmigiano. Here’s a tip for heating pasta bowls in cold weather: When the pasta is bubbling and about 3 minutes remain, ladle some of the hot pasta water into shallow bowls; tip out the water before adding the pasta.
|6||ounces guanciale (or pancetta or unsmoked
bacon), thinly sliced and cut into ½-inch strips
|1||medium onion, halved and thinly sliced|
|Salt and pepper, to taste|
|1||can (28 ounces) crushed, pureed, or diced
|1||pound bucatini, spaghetti, penne rigate, or
other long or tubular pasta
|1||cup grated pecorino Romano or other sharp aged cheese (for serving)|
1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the guanciale, pancetta, or bacon, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the fat is rendered.
2. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt. Stir well, cover the pan, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onion is soft but not brown.
3. Add the tomatoes and plenty of pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and set on the cover askew. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the sauce is well flavored. If you prefer a deeper, more roasted flavor, continue simmering while the pasta cooks. Stir once or twice so the sauce does not scorch on the bottom of the pan. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Lower the heat to a slow bubble.
4. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, coaxing the noodles into the water with a pair of tongs or a long spoon if they stick out. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes, or until the pasta is tender but still has some bite. Drain the pasta and return it to the pan. Add half the sauce and stir gently to combine thoroughly. Add more sauce until it looks right to you.
5. Ladle into bowls and serve with pecorino Romano or another sharp, grated cheese. Caleb BarberCaleb Barber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.