Bucatini All’Amatriciana, like most authentic Italian pastas is a simple dish from Amatrice, where tomatoes are fried in the rendered fat from guanciale and tossed together with some cheese and Bucatini. But for me, cooking is about more than just following a rigid set of rules. It’s about working with what you have and making a dish that suits your palate.
For my Spaghetti Amatriciana, I’ve embellished a bit and added shallots for extra flavor and wine for…. Well… do I really need a reason to add wine? I also didn’t have any Bucatini on hand, so I went with Spaghetti.
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.
Whoever described bacon as meat-crack is just wrong. Guanciale makes bacon look like watered down over-the-counter cough syrup. 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 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. That’s also probably why it’s managed to fly under food safety groups’ radar for now. Pancetta or unsmoked bacon could be used in a pinch, but it would be like The Beatles without Lennon or Apple sans Jobs. Still delicious, but not quite the same.