Pasta alla Amatriciana

A simple but delicious classic, originating, as the name would suggest, in the town of Amatrice in the province of Lazio a little to the north and east of Rome. Properly, it calls for guanciale, a special Italian bacon made from pork jowl, which is seldom available in New Zealand, but a good prosciutto comes very close. Living in Christchurch, I use Verkerk’s American streaky bacon. A purist would frown on the addition of anchovy, but it adds a little more depth to the flavour, I find. What with the bacon, the anchovy, and the salty pasta water there should be sufficient salt in the mixture, but some may like a little more. If so, check at the end of the cooking and adjust as required.

1 tblsp olive oil.
200g bacon chopped into bite size pieces.
1 medium onion, finely chopped.
3 cloves garlic, chopped.
2 anchovy fillets, chopped.
4 large ripe tomatoes, hulled and diced [or 1 400g can chopped tomatoes].
2 tblsp tomato paste.
Dash cayenne pepper.
Grated crumbly cheese [traditionally pecorino, but parmesan is good too].
1 cup chopped basil, or flat leaf parsley.
Dry pasta e.g. rigatoni or bucatini.

Place a pot of salted water over a hot flame. At the same time, heat the oil in a sauté pan over a medium flame. Add the bacon to the pan and stir fry for a minute or two until beginning to render then add the onion, garlic and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring now and again, for 5 minutes or until the onion has softened. Add the anchovy, diced tomato and the tomato paste and bring to the boil.

By this time the pot of water should be boiling. Add the pasta and cook for the time designated on the packet. Reduce the heat under the sauce to a simmer and cook gently for another 5-6 minutes.

Drain the pasta, but reserve a cup or so of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir through. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the cheese and the basil or parsley [reserving a little for garnish] through until completely combined and add some of the pasta water a spoonful at a time, stirring through until the sauce is of the desired consistency and the pasta is fully coated. Apportion into deep dishes, sprinkle with the remaining basil [or parsley] and serve immediately.

Serves: 2.

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