Why It Works
- Chili flakes add heat without distracting flavor, while a smaller dose of black pepper offers just enough musky spice to keep things interesting.
- This quick-cooked sauce is not only fast and easy, it also ensures that the tomato flavor remains bright—a necessary contrast for the rich pork.
- Finishing the pasta in the sauce coats each noodle with plenty of flavor.
Debate rages over the correct way to make a classic Roman amatriciana sauce of cured pork and tomatoes. We tested all the variables to come up with this ideal version, which packs a delicate heat, gentle black-pepper spice, sharp Pecorino Romano cheese, and the intriguing interplay of sweet-tart tomato sauce and rich, fatty cured pork.
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 ounces (170g) guanciale, cut into slices about 1/8 inch thick and then into 3/4- by 1/4-inch strips (see note)
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup (60ml) dry white wine
- 1 (28-ounce; 794g) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound (450g) dried bucatini pasta (see note)
- 1 ounce (30g) grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add guanciale and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits on bottom of pan, until nearly evaporated, about 3 minutes.
Add tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, boil pasta in salted water until just shy of al dente, about 1 minute less than package recommends. Using tongs, transfer pasta to sauce, along with 1/4 cup pasta cooking water. Cook over high heat, stirring and tossing rapidly, until pasta is al dente and sauce has thickened and begins to coat noodles. Remove from heat, add cheese, and stir rapidly to incorporate. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Serve right away, passing more cheese at the table.
Guanciale (cured pork jowl) will give the sauce the best texture, but if your best option is good pancetta, use it instead. Bucatini is a type of thick, hollow spaghetti; you can substitute regular spaghetti, or even penne.