Oct 2, 2010

Amatriciana recipe

After a section on the myriad types of pasta available in Italy, I just couldn't stop myself from posting the recipe for one of my favorite starchy dishes.

The famous Amatriciana sauce––made with guanciale, tomato and Pecorino––is commonly associated with Lazio and Rome, but is actually from the town of Amatrice, that, after the unification of Italy, was initially part of Abruzzo, and then annexed to the Lazio region only in 1927.

"Amatrice" is also an adjective meaning, 'expert lover woman.' You draw your own conclusions as you savor the assertive gusto of these killer bucatini.

200 g (1 cup) guanciale (or unsmoked pancetta), diced
400 g (14 oz) whole canned tomatoes, crushed
1 small white onion, finely chopped (yes, I make mine with onion – big debate will ensue among my Amatriciana-fundamentalist friends)
1 peperoncino (or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
1 glass of dry, white wine
3 fistfuls Pecorino Romano, grated
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
500 g (1.1 lb) bucatini type pasta

Render the guanciale in a pan, over low heat until golden and crisp.

Add the onion, and sprinkle the peperoncino flakes. When the onion is translucent, splash with the wine and boil to evaporate it. Add the tomatoes and cook uncovered for 10 minutes, and set the heat to low to keep the sauce warm while the pasta boils.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add some salt and plunge the bucatini (or the thickest spaghetti available, if you have trouble finding bucatini). Shortly before the pasta is ready, scoop up a little bit of starchy pasta cooking water.

I tend to go easy on the salt, given the flavorful punch lent by both the guanciale and Pecorino, but do adjust seasoning to your taste.

Drain the pasta while it's still quite al dente and pour it in the tomato sauce skillet, add the grated cheeses and a demitasse of pasta cooking water. Cook a few minutes more, mixing and rocking the skillet to coat the pasta evenly. Serve piping hot with more grated Pecorino if necessary.

Buon appetito!

Note: This recipe derives from a much older sauce called Gricia. Shepherds in isolated pastures used to make Gricia by gently sautéeing diced guanciale, and adding freshly boiled pasta, a healthy dusting of black pepper, and grated Pecorino Romano. This would result in a creamy grayish sauce, hence the recipes name, gricia, which is a Roman dialectal switch on the word "grigia" (gray).

Image credits Andrea Di Lorenzo


  1. Yum!!!

    I feel like I can smell this.
    Lola the way you put food into words is magical.

    love to you

  2. well i certainly like the translation of the name...smiles.

    i am unfamiliar with many of the ingredients you list, but i imagine like much you cook on here it would be amazing...

    hope the little one is doing well.

  3. Our very favorite pasta sauce it like this, except we add 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced, instead of the onion. We generally make this dish on Friday night, "date night," with LOTS of Pecorino!!
    Cheers, Cat

  4. OMG I'm slobbering all over the keyboard.

    You won - I'm cooking this for lunch


  5. Ah, too early in the morning for much commenting but had to say yum. (I also add onion...have seen some heated arguments when in Rome so editorial note in list of ingredients made me lol). Now I wish I'd said "Italian" for Sunday lunch out. I think I'll make this tonight, though. Just for me, myself, & I.

    ciao (love post on paste, below)...

  6. I just found you via a RT on twitter-- and what a wonderful find!
    This sounds (and looks) absolutely delicious--I'm a fan of the onion too!

  7. I haven't had my breakfast yet and now I crave this. A good way to start the day in my opinion.

  8. Robyn~
    thank you so much! I really want these recipes to be a fun read. Your compliments make me happy!


    the little one is growing like a beanstalk! So much fun to hear him state his opinions.


    I'm happy you make this on "date night," keep the tradition going!


    great! make it and let me know how it turns out, please!


    I tried making it without onion, and it just doesn't feel complete...
    I hope your Amatriciana dinner rocks!


    I thinks there's many of us onion supporters. Thank you for visiting, and come back soon!


    a PERFECT way to start the day indeed! Makes the day lighter and befor you know it... it's lunchtime!

    Happy cooking a tutti.

  9. OMG, you are making me soooo hungry!! Off to make some salmon - although now I want pasta!! Hope you are doing well. Love, Silke

  10. Love this dish. A favorite of my grandmother who hailed from Basilicata and came here 90 years ago!

  11. Just to add to the list of places people can get guanciale in the U.S., Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor sells it in-store and (sometimes) in their online catalogue.

    I also had one adventurous friend who suggested I could make my own guanciale out of pig jowls. Don't know if I'm up to that yet.

    Thanks for this recipe: I found some at Z.'s earlier today and am going to make it for lunch tomorrow ... with onion!

  12. Eleanora ~ how you make Italian food come alive with history and love - almost including smell-a-vision.

    Did my sister Amanda tell you that we are traveling to Lombardy/Peidmont soon? As a foodie expert where would you send us? We have 4 days together only.

  13. Silke~
    Brava, make some amatriciana AND salmon and have yourself a healthy Italian meal!


    keep the tradition alive! Hooray for nonna, then!


    thank you very much for the precious guanciale pointer, friends in Michigan will be happy!
    Onion rules...


    Whew, 4 days to cover 2 of Italy's biggest (and best food) regions only?! OK, just a few tips:
    PIEMONTE = Torino: chocolate; Alba: white truffle hunt (peak of the season); Langhe: hazelnuts and just about everything on the menu.
    LOMBARDIA = Milan: ossobuco+saffron risotto+sbrisolona cruble cake; Valtellina: bresaola; Como: George Clooney (kidding); Alps: cheese cheese cheese!

    If you want a more detailed list of specialties and places, e-mail me for a private consultation!

  14. Buon giorno, Eleonora!

    No worry about the onion, you are right about it! It gives the necessary sweetness to the amalgam of salty guanciale and pecorino and cuts the acid of the tomatoes. Besides, la grande Ada Boni - whose recipes were first published in the years 1915 to 1929 - uses onion, and not little: Her recipes goes like this:
    100 g Guanciale
    1 kg (2,2 lbs) of tomatoes (no skin, no seeds) and
    1 onion (regular size!)
    Makes for a lot of onion sweetness, doesn't it?
    (Note: According to Ada, this amount of sauce should be enough for 600 g, 1 lb and a half of pasta - underlines the fact that Italians use way less sauce than Americans.)

    So, don't let anybody tell you that a true Amatriciana should be prepared without onion, anzi! ;-)


  15. non so resistere ad un buon piatto di pasta, l'amatriciana a casa nostra è molto gettonata!Buona serata, un bacione...

  16. I’m pretty new to Italian cooking but I’ve made both of these; the amatriciana (with onion) was delicious, but I kind of liked how with the grigia, you can really taste the flavors of the pecorino and pancetta.

    Really enjoying your blog, by the way! I found it through Tuscan Foodie’s.

  17. Hi my sweet Lola, just READING your recipes always makes my belt too tight! But nevertheless, I will go and make myself some nice cheesy fried noodles now (no garlic, but an onion). I am always thinking of you, can you feel it?

  18. Merisi~
    Merisina adorata, my Amatriciana is none other than Ada's! And it's true, when it comes to sauce, less is definitely more! So glad to see you back here in my sauce-spattered little kitchen. Baci


    Grazie! Anche io per esempio ieri sera me la sono fatta solo per me! Avevo un bel pezzo di guanciale toscano regalatomi da un amico macellaio, dei bei pomodorini dolci, e un pecorino "resuscitamorti." Il gusto di mangiarla e scarpettarla è stato enorme! Grazie della tua visita!


    Thank you so much for stopping by! Gricia indeed exalts the flavors, including that of the actual noodle!
    Come back soon, there's always good stuff simmering on the stove here!


    No garlic in this, my love! I know you're not a fan of the bulb.
    Of course I can feel your positive thoughts coming my way! And do you feel mine?
    Ciao meine Liebe.


  19. Yum, yum, yum, yum! ;-)))))

    Paz xoxo

  20. Well, I am glad I dropped by after dinner tonight.......first I love the new Pesto photo but then you had to have the amatriciana right at the top. You're killin' me. I'm hungry again!
    I tried making it with prosciutto because even the Italian gourmet deli didn't have guanciale. Not the same. Then again, maybe I just need to go to Rome.

  21. Hello,
    Its look very delicious dish, i really wanna to taste it ASAP.
    I will try to prepare it.

  22. Paz~ Yes yes yes!!!


    You said it, all it takes is one flight reservation... lots of Amatriciana here waiting for you (tempt tempt)

    I'm happy you enjoyed it!

  23. One of my favourites too, mmm

  24. This looks absolutely delicious!! I love catching up on your beautifully done, edible posts!

  25. Nicoletta~
    mine too! che buonaaaa


    Thank you, it's great to see you back here! Glass of wine?

    Ciao friends

  26. Ciao Eleonora,
    I haven't seen your tweets lately. This looks divine!! I have to check your blog more often. un bacione dalla Florida!

  27. Ciao!! This recipe looks soo good. I'm just curious what type of font & what size font do you use for your blog? I'm asking because I wanted to use that size font on my blog. I had used larger font earlier but I realized that it was too large after awhile & it was a distraction from my actual posts. So right now I'm testing out different font & it seems to be coming out too small or too large. Your font is just right.

  28. Lora~
    I'm an inconsistent tweep, sometimes I forget... Hey, why don't you subscribe to Aglio, Olio & Peperoncino?

    Ciao amica! Thank you.


    Sweet Life~
    I use the Blogger Template Designer, in the Advanced menu, select the Georgia font, and the size is 110%.

  29. I tried it but nothing happens. I'm a little confused. Usually when I choose my font when I make a post I don't go in the Blogger Template Designer, I scroll down (in the scroll down box) where the options of font are like Ariel font, default font, etc. Do you use any from there?

    P.S Sorry to ask all these questions :)

  30. If you use the Template Designer, the font you pick becomes default and you don't have to choose it every time you code a post.
    Doing what you do messes up the Html...

  31. Grazie! I had no idea it messed up the template html. I appreciate you letting me know that! It finally works now!!

  32. So sorry I was on my mom's account fixing something for her & I forget to switch to my account to comment. I apologize for the confusion here.

  33. No worries, Sweet Life. Glad everything's working OK now.

  34. Mille Grazie for this recipe E.

    I have been looking for an easy Amatriciana recipe - and now I've found it. I've book marked it until I can get to my Italian deli for some good pancetta. Yum.

  35. Robin @ MM~
    thank you, I'm so happy you liked it; and that you stopped by for a bite too!

    There are a number of Italian delis that actually sell guanciale–that's what you should be aiming for...

  36. This was the best pasta I had in Italy; subtle, delicious flavors! Can't wait to make it myself.

  37. Ryan!
    I'm so happy you liked it! We must make more when I visit. I'll smuggle the pork...

  38. I really, really, like Amatriciana... I'd eat it right now, even though I had breakfast 2 hours ago :-) It certainly belongs to my comfort food. It is very difficult to choose between Amatriciana and Gricia... but if I had to, I'd choose Gricia. I'm hungry!!!