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.
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