Pasta alla Amatriciana

Since we have the Hill neighborhood, which is our Italian American neighborhood, we have access to delicious, affordable Italian ingredients. One thing I’ve really wanted to try using is guanciale, a cured meat made from pork jowl or cheek. It’s probably in the bacon family, but has a slightly sweeter taste? It’s often used in the pasta sauce amatriciana, so I gave it a shot with Mario Batali’s recipe from his Babbo cookbook; however, he has several slightly tweaked versions on The Chew or on Food Network as well.

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  • ¾ lb of guanciale, thinly sliced [You can also use pancetta or even bacon, but if you can get guanciale, try it out; I had extra, since I only used about ½ a lb in this recipe, so I used the extra as a substitute for bacon or pancetta in my pasta carbonara recipe, and it was delicious!]
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, halved and sliced ½ inch thick [I found this to be a bit thick, as you can see in my picture, so do it to your preference.]
  • 1 ½ tsp hot red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ cups basic tomato sauce [You can use whatever recipe you choose, but here is Mario’s version.]
  • 1 lb bucatini [Bucatini is the classic pasta for this sauce, but if you can’t find it, as I couldn’t, just substitute. I used spaghetti because bucatini is like a thick spaghetti with a whole through the center.]
  • 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, leaves only
  • Cheese for garnish (pecorino romano, parmesan, etc)
  1. Bring your pasta water to a boil and add salt.
  2. Place the guanciale in a 12-14 in saute pan in a single layer and cook over medium low heat until most of the fat has been rendered from the meat, turning occasionally. [Meaning, when the fat releases its liquid into the pan, like bacon does as it cooks.]
  3. Remove the meat from the pan onto a plate with a paper towel, and discard half of the fat from the pan. [I’d leave at least a tbsp of fat to coat the onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes.]
  4. After adding the onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes, return the guanciale to the pan and cook for 5 minutes or until the onion, garlic, and guanciale are golden brown. [If you’re afraid of burning the garlic, as I sometimes am, add the garlic with one minute remaining on the 5 minute cook time.]
  5. Season with salt and pepper, add the tomato sauce, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Cook your pasta according to the package directions until al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the simmering sauce. Add the parsley leaves and increase the heat to high; toss to coat. Divide into bowls, top with cheese, and serve!
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