Fresh tomatoes, grated pecorino, a touch of chili... and especially guanciale, the celebrated unsmoked salted pork jowl: these are the essentials of authentic bucatini all'amatriciana, the iconic Roman pasta dish that originated in the village of Amatrice, on the edge of Lazio and Abruzzi. Amatrice was devastated by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake on August 24. be prepared to savour this local pasta non-stop no matter where you live, because hundreds of chefs from around the world are putting Amatriciana on their menus to raise money for quake victims.
This recipe has its origin in a dish called "alla gricia," a shepherd's specialty based on dried ingredients (salted meat, pasta and cheese, which could be taken and stored in the mountains): local products such as guanciale (salted pork cheek) and pecorino romano. The original recipe did not include tomato. It was only near the end of the 18th century that this "salsa bianca" travelled to Rome, where they added tomato and chili.
Officials from the Commune d'Amatrice gave us this original recipe with a few notes. The pasta traditionally used for a real Amatriciana is bucatini, although you can substitute spaghetti. However, they say it will never be authentic without guanciale, since the salted pork jowl adds a matchless sweetness and richness to the sauce. (Author's note: If you can't find it, substitute pancetta).
- In a pan – preferably iron – place the oil, hot chili pepper and finely chopped guanciale. The traditional sacred proportion of guanciale to pasta is 1 to 4.
- Brown the ingredients over high heat. Add the wine. Remove the guanciale from the pan, let it drip dry and set aside, keeping hot if possible; this way, it won’t become too dry and salty, but rather remain soft and tasty.
- Add the tomatoes, cut into strips and seeded. It’s best to blanch them first so that you can peel them easily before cutting. Add salt to taste, combine, and place over the heat for a few minutes.
- Remove the chili pepper, return the guanciale to the pan, and combine again.
- In the meantime, boil the pasta in plenty of salted water until al dente. Drain well and transfer to a bowl, adding the grated pecorino. Wait a few seconds and then pour on the sauce.
- Mix everything together.
Serve hot and pass more pecorino on the side for those who want it.
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