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Jan 22, 2008 05:50 AM

Bucantini all’Amatriciana with Guanciale (NYT Recipe)

I've made pasta all’amatriciana many times from a River Cafe (UK) recipe that includes pancetta, red onions, rosemary, tomatoes, red wine and oregano, but not with guanciale. I'd seen this article and recipe in the NYT a week or two ago, and since I'd had some guanciale sitting the fridge for quite a while, thought I'd give it a try last night:

We really enjoyed it - the guanciale has a fantastic flavor - gamier, I'd say, than pancetta, and fattier. I think this recipe highlights the guanciale. I'm sure I'll make both again, but very different versions - I'm guessing the River Cafe one is a nontraditional version.

Edit - forgot to mention that I made it w/ some DOP San Marzano tomatoes that I'd bought that morning at Essex Market. I was somewhat suspicious of cooking the tomatoes for only 15 minutes, but these were quite small and cooked down beautifully in that time - I was worried they would still have a raw flavor.

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  1. Do you happen to recall what brand of tomatoes you found there? I am always looking for new S. Marzanos. 15 minutes does sound pretty fast- I usually do closer to 25. The River Cafe recipe sounds so different from any I have ever seen, and is nothing like the way that I make it or have enjoyed it in Italy. I wonder why they call it Amatriciana? It sounds delicious, though, if nontraditional.

    1 Reply
    1. re: vvvindaloo

      Vantia "D.O.P. Pomodoro San Marzano dell'Agro Sarnese - Nocerino". $4.95. The tin does look familiar - maybe I've seen it at Di Palo's - not sure though.

      The River Cafe dish is delicious - no idea why they call it that though!

    2. The following is a quote from Babbo's web site....
      "This dish is one of the most celebrated in Italian cuisine and a favorite here at Babbo. Named for the tiny town of Amatrice, located 100 miles east of Lazio from Abruzzo this dish can be made both with or without tomatoes. Ever since Abbruzzese shepherds begin the tradition of eating this spicy pasta after a day in the chilly mountain air, the cooking process has always begun with the rich smell of a fatty piece of pork bubbling in the pan. At Babbo, we use our homemade guanciale, or cured pig jowls, with its distinct pork flavor, to achieve the same rich taste that comforted the shepherds of old."
      Mario's recipe for his version of the Amatriciana is there as well.

      Apparently guanciale is easy to make at home:
      Babbo's recipe:

      8 Replies
      1. re: Gio

        What I found interesting about the NYT article is that apparently there is a debate as to whether the dish originated in Rome or in Amatrice. Would love to try making guanciale at home, but with el perrito ferroz around in our NYC apartment, I think it might be tough!

        1. re: MMRuth

          I was thinking about making the guanciale at home as well. It sounded totally doable until I thought about les mouches. Also, the cantaloupes in our weekly CSA box seem to have brought lots of tiny fruit flies with them, and I don't trust them to stay away from hanging pork jowls.

          Maybe a sort of drying box with mesh to allow air in could be made from a cardboard box.....although these teensy flies look like they could easily slide through mesh.

        2. re: Gio

          Thanks for this, Gio. I find something strange about this recipe though, considering the introductory paragraph that they provide. Yes, there is a long-time debate on the origins of the dish. Some say it is a Roman dish, from the city of Rome, where it is prepared with onions (typically, but not always). Others say it is actually native to the town of Amatrice, once within the borders of the region of Abruzzo, where it is typically made without onion. Babbo's paragraph re: Amatriciana indicates that they promote the idea of Amatrice as the birthplace of this important Italian dish. How odd that they would include onion- when the use of onion is at the very center of the debate!

            1. re: vvvindaloo

              I had taped an episode of Lidia's Italy and watched it last night as she made this dish as part of an episode on Rome. Interestingly, she started making the sauce by adding heated pasta water to the saute pan, then added the sliced onions. Later she added the guanciale and the garlic, and then when she puts the bucatini in the water, she added the tomato filets (the tomatoes sliced lengthwise) and juices. I was surprised, once again that the tomatoes would cook in the time it took to cook the bucatini, but apparently they did (maybe b/c cut up). She finished it off with pecorino romano, and had a nice little piece at the end about pecorino cheeses in general, including my favorite, an aged pecorino sardo.

              Hazan attributes Amatriciana to "the Roman town of Amatrice", and her recipe includes butter and vegetable oil, a finely chopped onion, pancetta, tomatoes, hot red chili pepper and a mix of romano and parmigiano-reggiano.

              The Silver Spoon - cook the pancetta in a little olive oil, add sliced onion cooked until lightly browned, add peeled, diced and seeded tomatoes as well as a seeded and chopped fresh chile. Served with spaghetti - and no mention of adding any cheese, which strikes me as odd, though looking at the photo - doesn't seem to be any cheese in it.

              1. re: MMRuth

                Thank you for that little cross-section on Methods of Amatriciana! Some thoughts:
                I just saw Lidia's transmitted today on WLIW (I had seen it a while back, too). I have never seen anyone else wilt the onions first in that way, but it makes perfect sense if you are not adding much oil to the dish ( you want the flavor of the guanciale fat), and don't wish to sautee. What did not make sense to me was the addition of garlic. For me, garlic and onion are an "either/or" thing. I cannot think of one sauce for pasta in which I include both.
                With regard to the tomatoes, I think you are right about why they cooked so quickly- she basically made a sauce of filetto di pomodoro- simple sliced tomato "filets" with tomato juice-no puree, no large whole chunks of tomato. I was glad to see that she used a healthy amount of dried peperoncino, as this is what would traditionally be used in Rome.
                As for Hazan, I can't understand why she would use veg oil or butter. These are clearly not ingredients indigenous to either old Rome or Abruzzo, where sheep vastly outnumbered cattle and olive oil practically drips from the faucet. But I must say that I am a big fan of hers, in general.

                1. re: vvvindaloo

                  I'd always heard the same thing generally about garlic/onion being an either/or.

              2. re: vvvindaloo

                I have not heard about the either/or onion/garlic debate. In my family it was always whatever the cook de jour wanted to sautee the prep in. Curious.

            2. Id just add that if you are making this dish in Brooklyn, Coluccio's sells guanciale now.
              (in the meat case in the back) - just saw it yesterday for the first time.

              1 Reply
              1. What went wrong?

                We followed the New York Times recipe. It didn't say exactly how long to cook the guanciale nor did it say to trim the fat, which I assumed was part of the rich flavor of the guanciale. What we got was fatty, inedible pieces of pork that we had to pick out. After that, it actually was pretty good, but obviously we shouldn't have had to pick it out. We are not weenies when it come to rich or fatty gaminess; we usually love those type of flavors. The guanciale was ordered online from La Quercia Artisan Meats in Iowa and seemed to be fine. Anyone have any idea what we did wrong?

                9 Replies
                1. re: nancyd

                  Hmmm - I didn't trim the fat, but sliced the slab I had lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices, then into 1/4 inch wide "slivers" so to speak. I cooked them at a pretty low medium temperature until they got just the slightest bit brown and crispy around the edges. I do agree that the guanciale was fatty, but we enjoyed it and didn't find it inedible. How big were your pieces of guanciale?

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    Too big, obviously. I think if we had also cooked it longer as mentioned it would have worked better.

                  2. re: nancyd

                    I think the guanciale should have been rendered/cooked to the crisp stage, even though the recipe says, "just barely beginning to brown"....remove the guanciale and let drain on a paper towel. If you think there's too much fat left in the pan, take out some and then proceed with the recipe.

                    It's funny to read all this fuss over Amatriciana because basically this is the same ole marinara I've been making for years. Whether it begins with guanciale, pancetta or EVOO the flavor is just a bit different with each ingredient.

                    1. re: Gio

                      I think that statement could be a little bit misleading. I am not questioning whether or not you traditionally make your sauce this way, but I am questioning the use of the name, "marinara", which is a word of Neapolitan origin, referring to a very basic sauce made of tomato extract (or paste). Here in the States, the name took on a meaning that caused it to be applied to any and all simple tomato-based sauces, and is often made with crushed or whole tomatoes, which is not really correct, according to the history of the dish. But, history aside, marinara contains neither pancetta nor guanciale, as it is strictly non-meat. Traditionally, the only added flavor to Marinara would be some fresh oregano. It also is not made with peperoncino. Amatriciana, on the other hand, is based on the flavor of spiced dried pork, with tomato filets (not sauce) being secondary. What makes the dish "Amatriciana" is the rich, spicy combination of guanciale, pecorino romano, and hot pepper, none of which belong in a true 'Marinara".

                      1. re: vvvindaloo

                        Thanks for pointing that out; I was going through the same process as you in my head, just didn't have the energy to write. When guanciale is unavailable, unsmoked, cured bacon is a very close second. I think the key is to render it slowly so the flavour permeates the oil. If it is sliced thinly enough then it does not taste like slabs of fat. I am learning how to make guanciale and hope it turns out.

                        1. re: vvvindaloo

                          My usual sauce is a very basic Marinara. . However, when I want to enrich the flavor, I use pancetta, etc., thus probably should be calling it by a different name. It's a case of habit over correctness. My marinara sauce contains no additional cuts of meat such as beef, pork.... and quite honestly is every bit like Lydia Bastianich's.

                      2. re: nancyd

                        I can't get guanciale here so I make it with pancetta. If there's more then a couple of tbsps on fat then I drain it to the desired amount. If there's not enough I add olive oil.

                        1. re: tlegray

                          I found a recipe for Amatriciana in my old, raggedy Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni, published in 1969 and bought used at the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan in 1990. It calls for "lard or oil" and "lean bacon", onions, no garlic, ripe or canned tomatoes, s&p, and 3/4 cup of Pecorino or mixed Parm and Pec.

                          Boni says: "It is frequently known, erroneously, as spaghetti ala matriciana, the sound the the phrase when spoken being exactly the same." So if one is just listening to somebody say it, one doesn't know if that person is calling it by its correct or erroneous name!