For this recipe I walked down the long expanse of the butcher counter thinking to myself, now what could I cram into a pot with tomatoes and onions, and make tasty?
Sugo all'Amatriciana is usually made with guanciale, or unsmoked pork jowl, but I wanted to see what would happen if I used any smoked pork, plus a fresh cut. The results were mighty good. The fresh cuts, especially with skin and bones, gave body to the sauce. The smoked parts added depth.
A word of warning: Taste your smoked parts or adjust the amount you use depending on how smoky your cut is. You want a sauce that tastes just a little smoky, but not so much so that you feel like you're eating tomato sauce that's been simmered in a smoke pit.
I love the way the sauce gets thickened with the pork. The fresh cuts, you may leave intact once they are done stewing with the tomatoes and onions. (I used hock, but you could also use trotters or necks.) The smoked parts can be defatted, then chopped roughly, so that you get a pebbly sort of mixture that clings to the pasta.
In preparation for this sauce, I wandered down the aisles of the pasta section and treated myself to superfluous boxes, all in short and interesting shapes that would pair well with the sugo. Pig parts sugo with cavatappi. Pig parts sugo with bucatini. Pig parts sugo with orecchiette. It's senseless trying to pick just one to call your favorite. They're all so good.
Although, I do especially like the way the orecchiette ears hold a little bit of the sauce in their indentation, as though they were tiny bowls within my bowl. (I'm not calling them my absolute favorite; I'm just pointing out something I like about them.) And I feel so lucky that I am one of those people who are extremely delighted by the variety of Italian pastas out there, because it is such an easy mood booster.
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About the author: Born in Shanghai and raised in New Mexico, Chichi Wang currently resides in Manhattan, where she divides her time between writing, cooking, and tracking down the best noodles in the city. Visit her blog, Mostly Tripe.