Spaghetti a la Amatriciana
I'm extra excited about this dish because I know it came from an authentic recipe. The first time I ever tried this slightly spicy pasta was at an italian restaurant this summer and I knew I wanted to recreate it. Lucky for me, one of my italian friends, Alberto, was kind enough to give me his family recipe! If you can picture in your mind, every italian stereotype manifested in a single human being, you have Alberto. Not only is Alberto a pasta expert, but he eats pasta at least once a day in portions about three times the normal size. And when I asked if we could use whole wheat spaghetti instead of white, Alberto, in all his Gap-clad italian glory replied NO!
Alberto's father taught him how to cook this recipe and his grandmother taught his father and now Alberto has taught me :) Originally, pasta a la amatriciana was made by shepherds using pig's cheeks and pecorino cheese only. After Napoleon brought tomatos from America to Italy, tomato sauce was added to the mix, along with white wine, hot peppers and garlic. There are several versions of pasta a la amatriciana that involve varying amounts of olive oil, garlic and hot peppers. The recipe we used is considered to be traditional save the fact that we used bacon instead of pig's cheek. And if Alberto weren't there to harness my affinity for garlic, this dish probably would've turned out a little heavy on the spice! I highly recommend cooking with a native Italian, if not for the credibility and expertise, then certainly for the exaggerated hand gestures and delicious food!
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
6 oz. bacon, diced
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1-2 tbsp crushed red pepper
1 1/2 cups grated pecorinocheese
1 box spaghetti
Salt and pepper to taste
Place one tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Place the cloves of garlic in the oil and allow the pan to heat up. Once the garlic is golden brown on the outside, remove from the pan and discard. After dicing the bacon, place in the pan and sauté until desired crispness is reached, stirring constantly. Once the bacon is crispy, remove it from the pan using a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towels. In the same pan, add the crushed red pepper and stir for a few minutes before adding the entire contents of the canned whole tomatoes. If you want your sauce to be on the spicier side go for two tablespoons but if you prefer just a slight pepper flavor just add one. Once the tomatoes are added, allow to simmer for 7-8 minutes. During this process, continuously mash the tomatoes with a fork to create a chunky tomato sauce.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a small handful of salt and add the dry spaghetti. Once the tomatoes have been simmering for 7 or 8 minutes, add the wine and bring to a boil. Once the wine has boiled, put the crispy bacon back into the pan with the tomatoes and allow to simmer until the pasta is cooked al dente. Right before straining the spaghetti, add one cup of the pecorino cheese into the sauce and stir. Strain the pasta and pour it right into the sauté pan with the sauce. Stir everything together and transfer to a large serving bowl. Pour the remaining half cup of pecorino cheese on top to garnish. Enjoy!