~ Piazza Navona ~
Rome is magical.  There’s no getting around it.  Whether it’s the rich history of the Pantheon, the Colosseum or Palatine Hill,  whether it’s the cuisine, the antiquity, or the replicated ancient bustle of Piazza Navona in the evenings; filled with vendors, artists, cafes and bars;  there is something about Rome that simply grabs you, holds you, and mystifies you.  

Four of the most classic pasta dishes have their roots in Rome;  Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe, Alla Gricia, and Amatriciana.  All contain less than 4 ingredients. All are variations of one another and all four scream Roman Aristocracy.    Today, we’re focusing on the classic Amatriciana. 

~ Looking down on the ancient Roman Forum from Palatine Hill ~

Penne all’Amatriciana 

1 28oz Can San Marzano tomatoes
8 oz. Guanciale, cut into strips
1/2 sweet vidalia onion
1 pound Penne 
You’ve seen me say this before.  When a recipe is as simple as this, with so few ingredients,  make sure you get the best, freshest quality ingredients possible.  It makes a huge difference in the finished product.  This is not the place for Hunt’s “tomato sauce” – you want unprocessed simple, canned San Marzano tomatoes.  A word on the Guanciale.  I’ve tried this recipe with Pancetta, it doesn’t compare. The Guanciale makes a huge difference.  Italian Guanciale is not available in the US courtesy of Governmental intervention.  However, there are excellent domestic Guanciale available in the US.  I just found a local Italian market that sources their Guanciale from farms in Missouri and the result was excellent.  With that said……

In a pot large enough to hold the finished pasta,  begin browning the guanciale in a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil until the guanciale renders its fat, about 5 minutes over medium heat.  You want the guanciale to form a slight crust because that contributes to the ethereal nature of the finished pasta. 

~ Take the time to render the Guanciale ~

Once finished, remove the guanciale to a bowl and in the rendered fat, saute the onion until it picks up a nice brown color, 3-5 minutes.  Scrape up some of the browned bits in the pan as you stir.
 

~ This step is important – it packs this dish with flavor ~

Once the onions are cooked,  return the guanciale to the pan and add the tomato.  The acid in the tomatoes will deglaze the pan. Scrape up all the browned bits and stir through.  Lower the flame to simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly and the tomato loses that “raw” taste. Season with salt and pepper.  

~ Simmering the tomatoes ~
At this point, you’re essentially finished.  While the tomatoes cook down, start your pasta water and cook the Penne until al dente.  Drain and toss with the sauce.  Serve immediately with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.  The classics are simple to make and they’re classic for a reason.  

~ Finito ~

To drink?  You have lots of options here.  You could opt for a full bodied Frascati and not go wrong.  The acidity in the wine will easily cut through the fat in the sauce and the Guanciale.  Young Chianti Classico, Dolcetto or Barbera will also work.

Salute!

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