Pasta Amatriciana

Pasta Amatriciana

In the original version of this pasta from Amatrice, there’s not much more than guanciale, tomatoes and cheese. For my Spaghetti Amatriciana, I’ve embellished a bit and added shallots for extra flavor, carrots for flavor and sweetness, and wine…. Well, do I really need a reason to add wine? It’s still a wonderfully simple pasta that doesn’t take all day to make, and yet the flavors are simply irresistible.

By irresistible, I mean it will having you casting other meat sauces aside like a worn out shoe. So what makes Sugo all’Amatriciana so seductive? Put simply, it’s the Guanciale.

If Pancetta is the Italian cousin of bacon, Guanciale is like Pancetta’s redneck half-brother conceived during a moment of passion in a cellar perched atop a hill in Lazio. Sure, it’s not as pretty looking as a roll of neatly layered Pancetta, but what it lacks in polish, it more than compensates for with its wild marbling, intense meaty flavor, and dare-I-say hint of barnyard funk?

Guanciale for Pasta Amatriciana

Whoever described bacon as meat-crack is just wrong. Guanciale makes bacon look like watered down over-the-counter cough syrup. And if you’re wondering why I’m using drug analogies, I’ll tell you why: guanciale is dangerous. This stuff should be regulated by the FDA with a big fat warning label: GUANCIALE IS EXTREMELY ADDICTIVE AND HAS BEEN KNOWN TO CAUSE PEOPLE TO COMMIT UNSEEMLY ACTS IN ORDER TO GET SOME. OH YEA… AND IT’S MOSTLY LARD, SO IT WILL MAKE YOU OBESE AND GIVE YOU HEART DISEASE (IF THE SALT DOESN’T KILL YOU FIRST).

Unfortunately (or fortunately), it’s difficult to find in the US, so any cardiologists reading this can relax (for now). That’s also probably why it’s managed to fly under food safety groups’ radar, thus avoiding any warning labels. Pancetta or unsmoked bacon could be used in a pinch, but it would be like The Beatles without Lennon or Van Halen sans Hagar. Still delicious, but not quite the same.

Pasta Amatriciana

Update 12/21/2010: I just had some leftovers with satsuma mandarin zest and extra pecorino, and can I just say it was even better? There’s an unexpected synergy between Guanciale and mandarin. I’m seeing some mandarin braised Guanciale in my near future.

Pasta Amatriciana with Mandarin Zest

Pasta Amatriciana

8.5 ounces (250 g) Guanciale cut into 1/4″ batons
1 medium shallot minced
2 tablespoons finely grated carrot
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup dry white wine
26 ounces (750 g) stewed tomatoes (preferably from San Marzano)
1 ounce (30 g) pecorino romano, finely grated
16 oz spaghetti

Heat a saute pan until hot. Add a splash of olive oil along with the guanciale. Fry until the guanciale turns translucent and browned around the edges but do not cook until crispy like you would with bacon (you don’t want to render out all the fat). Transfer the browned guanciale to a plate and set aside.

Guanciale Browning for Pasta Amatriciana

Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the oil, and add the shallots, carrots and red peppers. Fry until the shallots are browned (about 3 minutes). Add the wine and continue cooking until it has completely evaporated.

Sofrito for Pasta Amatriciana

Puree 3/4 of the tomatoes with juices then hand crush the rest. Add the tomatoes into the pan, turn down the heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Boil your spaghetti slightly less than what the package directions say (my pasta said 12 minutes, I cooked it for 9) as it will continue to cook after it’s added to the sauce.

Meanwhile, add the guanciale into the sauce and simmer for another 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

When the pasta is done, reserve a bit of the pasta liquid in a bowl then drain the pasta. Add the cheese to the sauce, stirring to combine, then toss the pasta with the sauce, adding in pasta liquid as needed to evenly coat the pasta.

  • Paolo

    Wonderful pictures (as always!) and amazing [no]recipe. My most sincere props to you, from bottom of my Italian cholesterol-coated heart!

  • onlinepastrychef

    Bring on the funk! Simple sauces that pack big flavor are perfect for crazy busy nights when you need something quick but it’s cold outside and you need something soul satisfying, too. But that’s too long to put on a label… ;)

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food

    Such a wonderful sauce to go with the pasta! Love it!

  • the indolent cook

    Yum, I love pasta amatriciana as I have a weakness for anything hot and spicy. Also, I’ve been wanting to get my hands on guanciale for awhile and your post only re-confirms that this is Something I Must Do.

  • Sommer J

    I am a bacon fanatic, so you saying guanciale is way better has me very intrigued and needing a bib, because I have a bit if drool hanging from my chin- my bad. Will definitely look out for this. The pasta also looks fabulous and full of amazing flavor. Will have to try it with unsmoked bacon, though it will just be like the Temptations minus David Ruffin :)

  • Kona Carambola

    Not to downgrade your heart health but Batali has a recipe for guanciale here (bottom of the page) that would be both ridiculously easy and ridiculously cheap to make, you’ll just need some room in your fridge.

  • Barbara | Vino Luci Style

    There is something inherently unfair about making us want guanciale and then letting us know it’s almost impossible to come by. I can think of nothing else to say but, ‘You little buggar.’

  • Stefania

    Davvero splendida ha proprio l’aspetto giusto, ciao

  • Joan Nova

    The photos are mouth-watering and your description and warnings about guanciale hilarious! LOL

  • Gina

    I’ve been wanting to try a Pasta Amatriciana for a while now, and I even know where to get guanciale here in Portland. This looks amazing! Thanks for the recipe.

  • Rhonda

    Oh heavenly Guanciale! I had my first taste of it a few years ago, I made a pasta dish with gunaciale and truffle oil, imagine the two married together and tossed in pasta! Darn you for making me crave it again!

  • Rich

    That guanciale looks incredible – and your description of the stuff is inspired. Cured meat had never before brought up images of frolics in Lazio …

  • Colloquial Cool

    Marc Marc Marc. You should know that I was once seduced by a wily French chef who prepared Amatriciana to beguile me. You can’t issue enough warnings about this one.

  • Sharlene

    This post was hysterical! I’ve had Amatriciana and have loved it. I wonder where I could obtain some guanciale.. Boy and I love anything that leads to obesity (as long as we’ve already gone to the gym)!

  • Lemons and Anchovies

    One of my all-time favorite pasta dishes. I’ve been bummed not to be able to find pork cheeks so I can make my guanciale. It’s just so much better for this and carbonara. I like your additions, too. I’ve never added wine to mine–I think I’ll try for next time.

  • Kimberley

    I want this, like, tonight for dinner. And I’ll take pork in any of its preserved forms, happily, in excess.

  • The Duo Dishes

    Pizzeria Mozza has guanciale on one of their pizzas, and it’s to die for. That was the first and only place it’s been seen so for. For that reason alone, this is awesome.

  • Jackie

    I LITERALLY want nothing more than a huge bowl of this RIGHT. NOW.

    …guess what we’re eating when I come visit :D

    Jax x

  • dropfood

    Your recipe was posted.

  • Kmstulpin

    That looks DELICIOUS! Yum. Now I’m hungry..


  • davina

    HAHAHA. You’re hilarious. If anything can make bacon seem like nuffin exciting I GOTTA TRY! x

  • Cooking Gallery

    Your photography is top notched and the recipe plus pictures look totally scrumptious…! I’ll definitely give it a try!

  • Tastes of Home (Jen)

    The Guanciale does look sinfully delicious, I’ve learnt something new definitely! Never heard of Guanciale until today. Sounds like a great ingredient to have! YUM

  • Carolyn Jung

    OK, yes, it is mostly fat. But just think how your skin will glow after indulging in that. LOL
    I, for one, cannot pass up a big bowl of spaghetti with a lusty sauce like this.

  • Jamie

    Fabulous recipe! This must be my husband’s favorite pasta dish so now I can make it for him. Beautiful. And your words are marvelous, have me rolling on the floor. Funny guy!

  • saltyseattle

    all i want for my birthday is- a big fucking piatto of this- make it happen, marc:) xo, l

  • Mutton Recipes in Urdu

    Punjab is Pakistan largest Province has actually distinguish into three parts, one is southern Punjab where cities like Rahim Yaar Khan, Bahawalpur, Multan etc then Central Punjab Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Okara, Lahore, Shaikhupura, Sialkot and then Northern Punjab cites like Chakwal, Rawalpindi , Wah Cantt and Islamabad. In Southern Punjab where food stuff is more traditional than Sindh, most famous are Multani sweets like Sohan Halwa. Central Punjab has its own rich culture people lives there are actually richer than any other parts of Pakistan. Sialkot and Faisalabad are major industrial cities and so as Lahore and these things shows in its life style and food.

  • Stacey Snacks

    I made this as well a few weeks back and posted it from Mario’s Molto Italiano book.
    Very easy and delicious, however, could not find guanciale here in the Garden State and a trip into the city that day was not feasible! Bacon was just fine.
    I need to hire you as my food photographer! As always, gorgeous photos.
    Happy new year.

  • Claudia

    Hey it sounds really good, if I can just find some of that stuff that’s like drugs.

  • A-l-e-x-h-a-y

     how much does this feeed ?

    • Marc Matsumoto

      4-6 depending on portion size.

  • Raymen Ohmori

    If you live in Seattle, guacinale is easy to get at Pike Place Market, at DeLaurenti. Never heard of it before, it was sooooooooooo good.

  • Ileadelacruz

    what is the best wine for this food

    • Marc Matsumoto

      A California Zinfandel would go great with this dish, or if you want to stick with Italian wines, I’d pair it with a Sangiovese.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      A California Zinfandel would go great with this dish, or if you want to stick with Italian wines, I’d pair it with a Sangiovese.

  • JPET

    I found it in Whole Food, Woodland Hills, CA. I made it the classic way. I used canned San Marzanos, some sauted onion in the sauce, and pecorino. Guanciale should get the Oscar.

    It may be what I want as my last meal. It was great.


    Can you clarify the amount of carrots needed for this recipe? The last photo looks decidedly more yellow-orange than my pan did, and I’m wondering if I was meant to use more carrots than I did. Either way, delicious, but maybe even more delicious with more carrot? Maybe… 

    • Marc Matsumoto

      The amount is correct, the lamp above my stove casts a really orange glow which is why the mixture looks orange. If you feel like adding more carrot would make it taste better though, by all means give it a try, and let us know how it goes!

  • Maricar

    just discovered your food blog, can i make this without the wine? am not an expert on wine and i might choose a very sour one :(

    • Marc Matsumoto

      It’s not going to taste the same, but you could use water. If you’re just worried about picking the wrong wine, try going to a wine shop and asking for help. Pinot Grigio or a Sauvignon Blanc would both be safe bets for this dish.

  • drake

    HMU right now
    thank you!

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I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!