This rustic Italian recipe for Pasta all Amatriciana is perfect for a weeknight meal. Quick and easy to make, Pasta all Amatriciana has a gorgeously rich tomato sauce, smoky pancetta, a hint of chilli and freshly grated pecorino romano cheese weaved through Garofalo pasta.
Hailing from the mountainous town of Amatrice in the 1600s, this rustic Italian shepherd’s recipe uses ingredients that were readily available to shepherds to keep them warm through bitter winters.
They would use:
- Guanciale or pancetta from their pigs,
- Tomatoes and onions from the orchards,
- Pecorino cheese made from sheep’s milk,
- And fresh pasta made by their wives.
Even now, the recipe remains the same. Unlike Amatrice itself.
We were shocked to hear of the earthquakes that flattened the town of Amatrice in August 2016.
So today, with the help of Garofalo pasta, and in honour of the people of Amatrice, we hope this Pasta all Amatricana recipe will find a new home in Wandercooks kitchens all over the world.
As it turned out, our first taste of Pasta all Amatriciana was actually a complete disaster… But to be fair, that wasn’t the fault of this recipe!
In the tiny town of San Dona di Piave, just outside Venice, two friends Beppe and Stefano offered to teach us how to cook Pasta all Amatriciana.
From the moment we stepped into the kitchen, we were beset by bad fortune. Refrigerated passata, dolce (sweet) pancetta and a complete lack of wine in the apartment.
(Beppe, you can’t drink beer with pasta!)
And while Chef Stefano wanted to revoke Beppe’s Italian passport, it was the just the beginning of our love affair with Pasta all Amatriciana.
Pasta all Amatriciana
What makes this dish so wonderful is its use of simple ingredients with powerhouse results.
I’m sure you’ll agree: Life’s too short for bad pasta. This recipe suits both long pasta like spaghetti or bucatini, or short pasta such as penne.
Pasta Garofalo makes all these and more in their hometown of Gragnano and exports them to over 70 countries
In fact, they have so many varieties, their catalogue is over 110 pages long!
(We never realised there were so many shapes and sizes!)
Garofalo products are easily recognisable from the rich golden colour of their pasta to the transparent packaging. Brought to life in 1789, their modern production techniques still retain the artisan’s touch, and they proudly wear their pasta making heritage on their sleeves.
Guanciale / Pancetta
Pasta all Amatriciana calls for an Italian cured meat called guanciale, which is made with pork cheek. Guanciale can sometimes be hard to find, but thankfully it’s extremely similar to pancetta. Look for either type at your local supermarket, Italian grocery store, or even online.
If you can’t find guanciale or pancetta you can easily substitute with bacon chopped into pieces.
Passata (Room Temperature)
Passata is different from other tomato based pasta sauces because it’s essentially uncooked tomato puree strained of the seeds and skin. Stefano’s number one rule when it comes to using passata is to always use it at room temperature. If for some reason you’ve got passata that’s been kept in the fridge, you can quickly run it under warm water to bring it to room temperature.
Pasta water is the unsung hero of Italian pasta sauces. All that milky white starch helps give your sauce a smoother consistency and make it bind with your pasta. Be sure to save some when you drain your pasta – don’t just let it go to waste!
We’ve saved a few more tips and tricks for the recipe below, so give it a try and let us know how you go!
P.S. Best served with a glass of red wine and a nod of thanks to the people of Amatrice.
- Let's start by bringing a large saucepan of water to boil. For the best texture, use 1 litre of water per 100g of pasta, and add in a large handful of good quality rock salt.
- Once the water's boiling, add your pasta and cook for a few minutes LESS than the packet directions indicate (the pasta will continue to cook when it's added into the sauce). Drain the pasta but make sure to reserve some of the liquid to use in the sauce. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan over a high heat. Add the onion, chillis and guanciale/pancetta or bacon pieces, and stir fry until gorgeously fragrant.
- The next step is to add the passata and 5 – 6 scoops of pasta water. Stir everything through then reduce heat to low and simmer for a few minutes.
- Now for the fun part! Place the drained pasta on top of the sauce, but DON'T mix through yet. First, top the pasta with your grated pecorino romano cheese and gently mix it through the pasta (avoiding the sauce as much as possible).
- Once the pasta is coated with that wonderfully melted cheese, you can start to slowly mix it in with the sauce. It should bind nicely to the cheese-coated pasta.
- If you decide the sauce is too dry, you can add more pasta water and mix it through until the pasta is nicely coated.
- To serve, portion out the pasta into serving bowls, leaving some of the cooked pancetta to place on the top as a garnish.
- Buon appetito!
For the best flavour make sure the passata is at room temperature before cooking. If you keep it in the fridge, just run it under some warm water before cooking.