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Rigatoni all’ Amatriciana

This is the great pasta dish of Rome, made there using guanciale, cured pork made from hog jowls. That’s hard to find here, so I suggest you use thickly sliced pork belly, pancetta, or unsmoked bacon. That’s a flavoring for what is otherwise a basic tomato sauce, whose only other distinguishing quality is that it employs enough crushed red pepper to make it distinctly spicy. Some versions add mushrooms, but I prefer this one. One more thing: the sauce gets better after a day or two in the refrigerator.

It’s more traditional (and better, I think) to use Romano cheese instead of Parmigiana for this dish.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4-5 thick slices (about 4 oz.) pancetta (or unsmoked bacon), coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbs. chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 28-oz cans whole Italian plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. rigatoni pasta, cooked al dente and drained
  • Garnish:
  • Finely-grated Romano cheese
  • Chopped fresh parsley

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat two Tbs. of the olive oil the olive oil until it shimmers. Add half the pancetta or bacon and saute until browned. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.

2. Add the remaining olive oil and chopped pancetta, crushed red pepper, garlic and onion. Cook until the onions are clear, then add the wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat by about half and simmer for about five minutes.

3. Puree the tomatoes with half the juice from the cans in a food processor. Pass the puree through a food mill or medium sieve to remove seeds and skins.

4. Add the tomato puree and salt to the saucepan. Bring the contents to a light boil and hold there, stirring now and then for 20-30 minutes. Or you can lower to a bare simmer and keep it going for about two hours, with the leftover tomato juice stirred in, for a thicker, sweeter sauce.

5. When the sauce is cooked to your liking, add the browned, reserved pancetta back into the sauce. Add the cooked, drained rigatoni to the pan and toss with the sauce to coat. Divide among pasta bowls and serve with grated Romano cheese and fresh parsley.

Serves four entrees or six to eight primi courses.

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