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Dinner Tonight: Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

When I cooked this pasta the other night, spaghetti all'amatriciana, I was surprised to find that it hasn't made its way onto the Dinner Tonight column already. It's one of my favorite quick dinners. A bit like pasta carbonara, it's a member of a trio of pastas based around bacon and cheese in the area of Italy around Rome. The closest cousin is pasta alla gricia (sometimes known as "amatriciana bianco"), with just bacon, cheese, pasta, and sometimes chili or sausage depending on who you ask. Carbonara never has chili but adds egg and lots of extra pepper. Amatriciana draws its deliciousness from the sweetness of onion and tomato.

If you can find guanciale (a type of bacon made from pig jowl), it's truly superior, but pancetta or American bacon will do fine. I use tomato sauce when I have it on hand, but simply starting from canned tomatoes and simmering the sauce a little longer is about the same. This recipe from the Babbo restaurant website calls for thick half moons of red onion, which brings a sweetness I think works wonderfully against the spice of the chili and the acidity of the tomato. Truly a classic, standout dish.

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