This is an image from a wonderful article in the New York Times of January 16, by the superb food writer Florence Fabricant. The subject is a favorite of ours: bucatini all'amatriciana. (You can check our previous post on this dish below) and is headlined as "The Meat of the Matter in a Pasta Debate."
In the article, Florence rightly claims that true Amatriciana must be made with guanciale, which is cured, unsmoked pig jowl. She rightly says that the great cook books in America almost always call for bacon or pancetta, rather than guanciale. But, in defense, she reports that it was by necessity: guanciale (which means pillow in Italian, which describes its shape) was simply not available here.
She also describes the fine points in the ongoing debate between Rome and the village of Amatrice on whether the dish should have onions (Rome, si; Amatrice, non), olive oil, and how much pecorino. And whether the pasta should be bucatini, or thick spaghetti, or even some penne. The debate on the fine points, and the hearty opinions, alla Italiana, are great fun.
But, wonders of wonders, guanicale can now be found in the United States. (more on this in our next post). So in keeping with our demand for authenticity, not to mention the shear taste delight of the "official" amatriciana, here is the recipe, WITH guanciale. (compare it with our original recipe posted earlier).
For the sauce:
- two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- one medium onion, thinly sliced
- three cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- one-quarter pound guanciale, sliced in one inch length slivers, one-quarter inch thick
- one 28-ounce can San Marzano peeled plum tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
- one-half teaspoon red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
- one-half cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
- one pound bucatini
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic. When it starts to sizzle, add the onion. Saute for five minutes. Add the guanciale, and saute until it just starts to brown. Roughly chop the tomatoes, and add them to the saute pan. Continue cooking at a lower heat, uncovered, for about fifteen minutes, while regularly breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. The sauce should be relatively smooth (not lumpy). Add the red pepper flakes, a twist or two of freshly ground pepper, a half teaspoon of salt, and a tablespoon of pecorino. Stir and set aside.
Cook the bucatini in a large pot (4 to 5 quarts of water) of salted, boiling water. Cook until al dente. Drain (reserving one cup of the pasta liquid) and add to the saute pan of sauce, which you have now reheated. Stir and meld together. Add the cheese and a tablespoon or two of the reserved pasta water if the sauce is too thick to meld well with the pasta. Cover, turn up the heat for two minutes to get it really hot. Serve with extra pecorino on the side.
Note: more on guanciale in the next post