This timeless recipe is from the small town of Amatrice, located in the northern area of the Lazio region in central Italy. More specifically, Bucatini all’Amatriciana was created among the rolling hills overlooking Amatrice, by shepherds who used to bring cheese and pieces of pork cheek with them during long journeys far from home and cook them on an open fire in an iron pan. They would make the fresh bucatini using flour and water which was then wrapped around a piece of wire, forming its signature tubular shape. The recipe evolved over years, adding tomatoes and chilli, subsequently forming the rich sauce we know and love today.
Traditionally this recipe uses guanciale, a cured meat made from pork jowls (as guancia literally translates to ‘cheek’ in Italian) however, it can sometimes be difficult to find in the UK, in which case pancetta is also a tasty alternative.
Italian traditionalists will insist that the original sauce recipe contains simply guanciale, chilli, tomatoes, and pecorino cheese, but the white wine unquestionably adds something elevated to the dish. You can also add onions and/or chopped garlic for extra aromatic flavour but it is equally delicious without! As there are fewer ingredients in this recipe, it’s well worth spending a bit extra for better quality ingredients – trust us on this one.
How to make our bucatini all'Amatriciana
Prep Time: 30 mins
Calories per serving: 490kcal
- 120g of guanciale, or good quality pancetta, diced into 0.5cm cubes
- 450g of San Marzano tomatoes (1 tin or fresh, roughly chopped)
- 1/2 onion, diced (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (optional)
- 1/2 red chilli, diced
- 50ml of white wine
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 450g of bucatini pasta (or spaghetti)
- Pecorino cheese, to grate on top
- basil leaves, torn
- Using a large frying pan on a medium-high heat, gently fry the guanciale and chilli in olive oil. If using onion, and/or garlic, add them to the pan to soften without colouring.
- Once the guanciale has crisped up a little, (it should develop a deliciously light golden colour) add in the wine and reduce by half. A tip for knowing when the alcohol is burnt off is to waft the steam towards you, you’ll be able to smell if the alcohol is still there!
- Next, add in the tomatoes and turn down the heat. Simmer until the sauce begins to thicken (about 10 minutes). If using tinned tomatoes, you may need to add a pinch of sugar.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil and cook your pasta according to the packet instructions. You should, however, check the pasta a good 2 minutes before the end of the cooking time to ensure the pasta is perfectly al dente.
- Once the pasta is cooked, transfer into the pan with the sauce, adding 1-2 tablespoons of salty pasta water as needed. Toss together until evenly coated.
- Serve immediately with a generous sprinkling of pecorino cheese and torn basil leaves. Buon appetito!
Bucatini all’Amatriciana wine pairing recommendation
The combination of spicy tomato sauce and fatty pork throws up an interesting wine pairing challenge, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be met. In the town of Amatrice, where this dish hails from, you’ll often see pasta all’Amatriciana paired with Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a full-bodied red wine from just over the border in Abruzzo. Less traditional, but equally as fitting, is Barbera d'Alba – this northern Italian red has the perfect amount of acidity to complement the tomato sugo and cut through the rich pork.