Spaghetti all’Amatriciana is a classic and delicious Italian pasta dish. It’s loaded with layers of flavor, and it’ll become a family favorite for sure!
Ah, pasta. There are few things more comforting than sitting down to a bowl of pasta. Can I get an amen!? (Ok, a big slice of chocolate cake is just as comforting. But who says you can’t have that bowl of pasta followed by a slice of chocolate cake? That’s how I roll!) As much as I love classic Spaghetti and Meatballs, sometimes you just need to mix it up. Spaghetti all’Amatriciana is a great way to do just that!
I wasn’t familiar with Spaghetti all’Amatriciana until I had the chance to study in Italy after my junior year in college. My Italian was minimal at best, so going out for dinner was a bit of an adventure. Sure, there are those restaurants (mostly in the tourist areas) with photos of each of their meals. That makes it easy to understand, but my experience is to avoid those places. The quality of the food tends to be, uh, average.
However, one of my friends who spoke far better Italian than me helped me decipher the menu that first night, and I landed on Spaghetti all’Amatriciana. This classic Italian pasta dish is simple, rustic and delicious. The flavors come from guanciale, pecorino cheese, tomatoes, and sometimes onions. (I chose to include the onions in this recipe.)
Guanciale. Say what? Cured pork cheek, aka delicious. Guanciale is traditionally used in Spaghetti all’Amatriciana and Spaghetti Carbonara. Every time I go to Italy, I’m pretty sure I eat my weight in both all’Amatriciana and Carbonara. However, a problem arises when I come back home. Guanciale isn’t easy to find in the States. To be fair, it’s becoming a bit easier to find in high-end markets and delis, but it’s still not easy. And if you do find it, it’s likely very expensive. Sometimes it’s fun to splurge, so I recommend trying guanciale in this recipe if you ever stumble across it!
So how do we make Spaghetti all’Amatriciana without guanciale? Luckily, pancetta is a close enough substitute. Guanciale is a bit more tender, and the flavor is a bit stronger…but pancetta is totally acceptable. I’ve seen some recipes and restaurants call for bacon. I guess that could work, but I highly recommend the pancetta route here. And use a good quality Pecorino cheese. That makes a huge difference, too!
Once you’ve got the ingredients in hand, Spaghetti all’Amatriciana is a very easy recipe to make. In fact, you can have this one ready for weeknight dinner without any trouble at all. The sauce doesn’t come from a jar. It comes from a can of peeled tomatoes. (As I noted in this previous post, try to find canned San Marzano tomatoes. The difference is noticeable!) I recommend just pouring that can of peeled tomatoes into a large ziptop bag. Then you can crush the tomatoes without ruining your favorite shirt. Not like that’s ever happened to me or anything…
So if you’re looking for a delicious (and easy!) comfort food meal, then put Spaghetti all’Amatriciana on the menu. This classic Italian dish is loaded with layers of flavor, and it’ll become a family favorite for sure!
Did you make this recipe at home? Leave a comment. Or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog). Cheers!
Looking for more delicious pasta recipes? Check out these other favorites, too:
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 8 oz. guanciale or pancetta thinly sliced
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 28 oz. can peeled tomatoes preferably San Marzano tomatoes
- ½ tsp sugar
- 16 oz. spaghetti
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese plus more for garnishing
- Chopped fresh Italian parsley
- Using a large, deep skillet, add olive oil and place over medium-low heat. Once hot, add guanciale, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 12-13 minutes, or until onions have softened.
- Pour tomatoes (with juiceinto a large ziptop plastic bag. Seal bag and crush tomatoes with hand. (Note: the ziptop bag is not required, but it keeps tomato juice from going everywhere!)
- Transfer tomatoes into skillet and add sugar; stir until well combined. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until sauce has thickened.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted water for 2 minutes less than package instructions. Drain pasta, but reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid.
- Transfer pasta into skillet and stir until well combined. Add ½ cup of reserved pasta water; cook for 2-3 minutes, or until pasta is fully cooked. (Note: If necessary, add more pasta water.)
- Add Parmesan cheese and stir until well combined.
- Divide pasta into bowls. Top with additional Parmesan cheese and chopped Italian parsley.