Spicy Bucatini Amatriciana
While we can’t spontaneously hop a flight to Italy, we can pretend by way of a plate full of pasta. We’re making recipe developer Erin McDowell’s bucatini amatriciana, a just-spicy-enough classic that hails from the town of Amatrice.
“When I make tomato-based pastas, I always like to add a little bit of spice,” McDowell tells us, “and the Italian amatriciana sauce is particularly delicious because it’s made with a small amount of cured pork. It gives the sauce this richness that can stand up to that burst of heat.”
The traditional Italian version uses guanciale, salt-cured pork jowl. It’s worth seeking out at an Italian grocery, but it can be hard to find, so substitute with pancetta or even bacon in a pinch. Bucatini is our favorite pasta shape for its chewy bite, but spaghetti works too.
“This is a very regular weeknight dinner at our house,” McDowell continues, “but it’s absolutely something you could make for company. Even though it’s simple to make, it’s the kind of thing everyone craves and will gobble up.” Including us.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
5 ounces finely chopped guanciale (or bacon)
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 tablespoon jarred Calabrian chile paste (or chopped drained oil-packed Calabrian chiles)
Pinch of crushed red-pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
One 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 sprigs fresh oregano
1 pound bucatini (or other long pasta)
⅓ cup Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for finishing
1. In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the guanciale and cook until the fat is fully rendered and the meat is well browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon and reserve.
2. Add the onion to the pan and sweat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chili paste and red-pepper flakes, season lightly with salt and generously with black pepper, and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.
3. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, then stir in the tomatoes and oregano. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and discard the sprigs of oregano.
4. While the sauce simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Add the bucatini and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Reserve ⅓ cup pasta water, then drain the pasta.
5. Toss the pasta with the thickened tomato sauce over low heat. Add the reserved pasta water and the Pecorino Romano, and toss generously until the mixture is well combined and the sauce clings to the pasta. Add the reserved guanciale and toss to combine. Garnish with more cheese to serve.