The new fall menu at Il Fornaio last night included a trofie all'amatriciana. It was perfectly done and reminded us how wonderful an intro into the fall season this classic pasta recipe is. The normal presentation is with bucatini, a thick, hollow spaghetti. But trofie, the twisty, spiral little pasta shapes, usually associated with Liguria, worked fine.
It is a boldly flavored, highly-spiced dish from the town of Amatrice, near Rome. It is both simple to prepare and infinitely rewarding in its perfect combination of flavors. Here is our favorite version:
bucatini alla amatriciana
for the sauce:
- three plus one tablespoons olive oil
- one medium red onion, finely chopped
- 8 ounces of pancetta, or slab bacon, about one-quarter inch thick, roughly chopped into squares 1/4 to 1/2 inch in size
- one teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
- 2 cups canned, imported Italian plum tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
- salt and lots of freshly ground pepper
- one-half cup freshly grated pecorino Romano (Parmigiano works, but pecorino is better)
for the pasta:
- one pound bucatini or spaghetti (or trofie)
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, for about eight minutes, until it is lightly browned and almost crisp. Use a slotted spoon and transfer the pancetta to a separate plate (or paper towel).
If there are more than two or three tablespoons of fat left in the pan, drain off the excess. Add the onion to the saucepan and saute for about 3 minutes, until soft. Add the red pepper flakes, salt and the freshly ground pepper, and saute for another thirty seconds.
Add the chopped tomatoes, simmer (uncovered) for about twenty minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Taste and correct for salt and pepper. Set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot (4-5 quarts) of cold water to a heavy boil, add a couple of tablespoons of salt, drop in the pasta, stir it around, and cook to al dente (tasting regularly to check for doneness).
One of the tests as you mix the sauce and pasta is to make sure the sauce is moist enough to coat the pasta beautifully. The sauce might be a little thick. Therefore, before draining the pasta, take one cup of the pasta liquid and reserve it. Drain the pasta. Turn up the heat on the sauce and add the pancetta and stir. Add the pasta, add the extra tablespoon of olive oil, and stir well. Heat for thirty seconds, covered.
Add the pecorino, stir and serve on hot plates.
For spaghetti all'arrabiata, another wonderful fall pasta dish with spicy overtones, go to: http://www.classicpasta.com/, click on pasta and then spaghetti.