Originally Published: January 8, 2014

One thing to know about Italians: we like to take credit for what’s good. Or should I say…”BUONISSIMO!” It’s no surprise then that the origins of some of the most delicious pasta out there are well argued across the boot.

Most agree that Pasta all’Amatriciana originated in the little town of Amatrice, between the regions of Lazio and Abruzzo. The amatriciana was born as a poor dish. Shepherds would make their everyday meals with the ingredients to them most available, amongst which animals such as sheep and pigs. In fact, the amatriciana includes only three ingredients: guanciale (smoked pig’s jowl), tomatoes, and a sprinkle of salty pecorino cheese. Some suggest hot chilly pepper as one of the core ingredients but that is not always the case. Spaghetti pasta was commonly used in this dish, as Amatrice was also known as The City of Spaghetti.

There exist a number of variants to the original recipe, and it is still unclear which one of them is truly the original one. The modern Roman version is often made with the addition of onion, garlic and a splash of white wine to enhance the flavor. The Romans also adopted the use of bucatini pasta, which is essentially thick spaghetti with a hole down the center. This pasta is extremely hard (but also fun) to eat because if you try to pull them up like spaghetti, the air that passes through the middle will cause you to spray tomato sauce all over your clothes!

amatriciana-pasta-rome-food

The famous ancestor of amatriciana is known as gricia. The dish was made with nothing else but guanciale and pecorino. Some say that the use of tomatoes in pasta sauces was actually adopted only after Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas and imported tomatoes into Europe.

We asked one of our favorite Roman restaurants how they make their amatriciana. The answer was rigatoni pasta and onion. Here’s how they do it.

Italian Food Recipe: Rigatoni all’Amatriciana

Ingredients

  • 400 gm (14 ounces) guanciale (Italian-style bacon made from the pig’s jowl)
  • 100 gm (3.5 ounces) pancetta (Italian-style bacon made from the pig’s underbelly)
  • 500 gm rigatoni pasta (17 ounces) rigatoni pasta
  • 500 gm (17 ounces) tomato sauce with skin and seeds removed
  • 200 gm (7 ounces) Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/8 onion
  • A spash of white wine

Procedure

  1. Fry both the guanciale and the pancetta adding a drop of white wine
  2. Add tomato sauce with the diced onion and cook for 30 minutes (if using bottled tomato 
sauce) or 1 hour (if using fresh tomatoes)
  3. In the meantime, cook the pasta in salted water then drain and immediately add to the sauce in the pan.
  4. Mix quickly over heat to incorporate the sauce nicely into the pasta.  Here’s the secret: the starch from the pasta mixes with the juices of the sauce to make it perfectly creamy, Italian style.
  5. Sprinkle a handful (or two) of pecorino cheese on top and serve smoking hot.

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