Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Guanciale and Onion
Amatrice is a hill town near Rome but this delicious pasta sauce is considered a classic throughout Italy. It’s easily assembled from store-cupboard ingredients. It’s a versatile recipe and in Italy the debate continues about the best way to make it. Some cooks prefer garlic to onion. Or Parmesan to Pecorino Romano. Or spaghetti to the thicker bucatini. Others like to add a bit of heat using chile/chilli peppers. You can use canned or fresh tomatoes (as long as they are ripe and sweet). The original recipe calls for Italian guanciale (salt-cured pork jowl) but if you can’t find that use pancetta or unsmoked bacon. The most important thing is to use good quality durum wheat pasta from Italy and not to overcook it!
4oz/ 110g unsmoked guanciale, pancetta or bacon
2 tbsp/ 30ml extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 fl oz/ 1/2cup/ 125ml dry white wine
1 lb/ 450g chopped canned or fresh tomatoes, with their juices
1lb5oz/ 600g spaghetti or bucatini
freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Slice the guanciale, pancetta or bacon into matchsticks. Heat the oil over low heat in a large frying pan or skillet. (If you’re using guanciale omit the oil as the guanciale has enough fat.) Add the pork and allow it to start to yield its fat, 3-4 minutes. Stir in the onion and cook over low heat until it is translucent and the pork is beginning to brown, 6-8 minutes.
- Bring a large pan of water to the boil for the pasta.
- Add the wine to the onion mixture, raise the heat and cook rapidly until the liquid boils off. Stir in the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat for 10-15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, add salt to the boiling water and cook the pasta until it is just al dente. Just before draining the pasta, scoop out a mugful of the pasta cooking water and reserve. Turn the pasta into the pan with the sauce, add the cheese and cook for 1-2 minutes more over moderate heat, turning the pasta in the sauce to cover it evenly. If the sauce seems too thick, add a little of the pasta cooking water. Serve immediately, with more grated cheese on the side if you like.