Are you looking for the real amatriciana sauce recipe? I see you, cause this is one of the myths of Italian pasta. Few recipes identify this much a country, Italy, and even more a city, Rome, and few recipes have been copied more than this. Let’s try to understand why this happens, what makes it so tasty and of course how to cook a real one, like you would eat in … Amatrice! 🙂
Amatriciana sauce – the origin
Because yes, Amatriciana sauce is born in (and is named after) the small village of Amatrice, in the mountains between Lazio and Abruzzo. It is actually the “tomato version” of another traditional and today almost equally famous recipe, the “alla gricia” sauce. Pasta alla gricia is, together with carbonara, amatriciana and cacio e pepe, part of that bunch of pasta recipes today mainly connected with Rome, but actually created in the mountains between Lazio and Abruzzo.
Gricia sauce is likely named after Grisciano, a small village near Amatrice (what an area to live, for pasta lovers!). The main ingredients are the same, guanciale and pecorino romano, but no tomato. You must remember that, even today the use of tomato is widespread in pasta sauces, that became true only at the end of ‘800.
Amatriciana sauce – the rules
There are a few rules to be respected when preparing this recipe:
- first, and the most important, don’t use bacon, but guanciale. It is a different part of the pork, and has a different fat composition. The smell is really something you will recognize after you have tried it once. Remember, the texture of the guanciale is crucial to the success of this recipe: not too crispy, not “boiled”.
- Then, the pecorino romano. The right choice is the one coming from Amatrice, of course, but since it is quite hard to find it abroad, I give you one advice: the real important thing is to avoid a very matured pecorino, since it will be too salty and its taste will overwhelm the other ingredients.
- Finally, don’t forget the chili pepper: amatriciana is not extremely spicy, but it contributes to that round taste that is the strength of this dish.
But now, less words and more calories, lol. Let’s start with our step-by-step recipe! Please note that pictures were taken during a lunch with my wife, so they refer to two servings. Anyway ingredients refer, as usual, to a typical 4 people meal.
Real amatriciana sauce
- wooden spoon
- 400 gr pasta (spaghetti, bucatini, rigatoni)
- 240 gr guanciale Two thick slices per person
- 120 gr pecorino romano pecorino di Amatrice if possible
- 400 gr tomato sauce
- q.s. black pepper
- q.s. chili pepper
- 1 pinch salt
- Remove the rind from the guanciale, then cut it into thick slice, about 0.5 cm each. Consider 2 slices per person. Cut each slice into sticks.
- Heat the pan, then with use a piece of rind to grease its surface (see video below). Add the guanciale, that will start immediately to fry (pay attention: it should become transparent, don't burn it). The right texture of the guanciale, not burnt but not even boiled, is crucial to the success of this recipe. In the meanwhile, start heating the water and salt it.
- When the guanciale has released its fat and looks crispy, add the tomato sauce. With a cover (otherwise it gets too dry), cook it for about 15 minutes. Add black pepper according to taste (personally I prefer to skip this, since the guanciale rind is already rich in black pepper and some of that sticks to the fat).
- When the pasta is almost ready (2 minutes in advance of cooking time) remove it from the water and drop it into the pan. With the spoon, stir it. Then, add some pasta water and go on stirring. Repeat until it is cooked. The pasta water, high in starch, will help creating a wonderful cream, when added to…
- … the fat contained in the pecorino romano. This is final step: add the pecorino, stir it and your amatriciana is ready to be served. Buon appetito!
Suggested wine pairings
“Follow the territory” is always a good advice! Amatriciana pairs perfectly with a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC, a still red medium-bodied wine. If you are surprised the wine is not from Rome area, don’t forget that even the recipe is not 😉
Amatriciana sauce – FAQ
Amatriciana sauce gets its name from the small village of Amatrice, near Rieti (in the mountains not too far from Rome).
Amatriciana is both the name of an amazing pasta sauce, based on guanciale, pecorino romano, tomato sauce and chili pepper, but also the adjective related to the village of Amatrice.
Classic amatriciana is usually served with spaghetti or bucatini. My choice goes to rigatoni as well, since the texture of this kind of pasta is perfect for almost any sauce.