Monday, July 2, 2012

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana
serves 4
Spaghetti all'Amatriciana is a traditional Italian pasta dish based on guanciale(dried pork cheek) and spicy tomato sauce found on the menus of many high-end Italian restaurants.  While guanciale may be hard to come by pancetta or even thick-cut American bacon make acceptable substitutes.  When I prepare this dish I follow my mother's tradition and include a 2-inch cube of Parmigiano-Reggiano to the sauce while it's cooking, it adds great flavour to the sauce and makes a great snack for the chef . . . . just remember to remove it when you remove the sprigs of Rosemary and Sage and before you puree or mash the tomatoes!

                                                                             Prep time:  15 minutes
                                                                             Cook time:  2 hours 15  minutes
                                                                             Total time:   2 hours 30 minutes


1 pound dried spaghetti, cooked al dente according to package directions
12 ounce of  Guanciale*  cut into ¼-inch strips (or substitute pancetta or thick-cut American bacon)
2 tablespoons  unsalted butter
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, micro-planed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh sage
½ cup red wine
1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano whole, peeled tomatoes, roughly crushed by hand and including the juices
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
Kosher or sea salt, to taste
¼-1 teaspoon red chile flakes, to taste
grated Pecorino Romano cheese

roughly chopped fresh Italian flat leaved parsley

* un-smoked Italian bacon prepared from pig's jowl or cheeks


render the Guanciale:

In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the Guanciale (bacon) and cook it until its fat renders and the bacon is crisp, about 15 minutes.   Transfer the rendered bacon, using a slotted spoon,  to a dish lined with paper towels to drain.  Leave the rendered fat in the pan.

prepare the sauce:

1.  Add butter, the  carrots and the onions to the pan.  Season with salt, and saute, stirring, until soft, about 6 minutes.
2.  Add half the garlic, the rosemary and the sage, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
3.  Add wine, and cook, stirring, until it is evaporated, about 5 minutes.
4.  Add the crushed tomatoes and their juices, and bring the contents of the pan to a boil and immediately reduce the heat under the pan to medium-low and cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced and thickened, about 2 hours.
5.  After the sauce is thickened remove and discard rosemary and sage stems.  To puree the sauce American style, allow the sauce to cool slightly to prevent an unpleasant blender accident and transfer the cooled sauce to a blender.  Puree the sauce and then return it to the pan. If, however, you prefer your sauce as Italians like, slightly chunky, use an old fashioned potato masher to mash (crush) the roughly crushed tomatoes further into chunks you prefer.  Stir in ¾ of the reserved bacon, along with remaining garlic and oil, pepper, and chile flakes; keep warm.

cook the pasta:

Cook the pasta per package directions in heavily salted water until it is al dente, about 8 minutes.  Drain the pasta reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. 

Add the drained spaghetti to the pan with sauce; toss to coat.  If the pasta seems too tight (dry) for your taste, add some of the reserved pasta cooking water, a little at a time, until the sauce loosens up.  Divide the  sauced pasta  amongst warmed serving dishes,  garnish each service with some of the remaining reserved bacon, some of the pecorino cheese, and parsley.  Serve immediately accompanied by the grated Pecorino-Romano cheese 

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