Dish of the Week: Pasta all'Amatriciana

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we're sharing a recipe for Pasta all'Amatriciana.

Sugo all'Amatriciana is a classic Italian tomato sauce made with guanciale (salt-cured pork jowl), grated pecorino cheese, and sometimes red pepper flakes. The result is a salty, nutty and delectable sauce that is commonly served over pasta.

Named for the town of Amatrice, about an hour east of Rome, the sauce has become very popular in Roman cuisine. It is thought, though, to have originated closer to its namesake town, where shepherds and common folk used local ingredients to make a similar dish called pasta alla gricia. Pasta alla gricia was made simply with guaniciale, black pepper, and pecorino. It wasn't until tomatoes were introduced to Italy in the 17th century that tomatoes were incorporated into the dish and pasta all'amatriciana was born.

This recipe, from Bon Appétit, adds spice from a mix of black pepper and dried chiles.

Pasta all'Amatriciana Ingredients serves 4 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 4 oz thinly sliced guanciale (use pancetta or chopped unsmoked bacon if you can't find any) 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper 3/4 cup minced onion 2 cloves garlic, minced 28-oz can peeled tomatoes with juices, crushed by hand Kosher salt 12 oz dried bucatini or spaghetti 1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino (about 1 oz)

Directions Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add guanciale and sauté until crisp and golden, about 4 minutes. Add pepper flakes and black pepper; stir for 10 seconds. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring often, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes; reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until 2 minutes before al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water.

Add drained pasta to sauce in skillet and toss vigorously with tongs to coat. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water and cook until sauce coats pasta and pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. (Add a little pasta water if sauce is too dry.) Stir in cheese and serve in warmed bowls.

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Brooke Viggiano is a contributing writer who is always looking to share Houston's coolest and tastiest happenings with the Houston Press readers.
Contact: Brooke Viggiano