Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pasta Amatriciana

This summer my husband and I went on a European vacation. A last "hurrah" if you will after graduating college and before starting "real" life and real jobs (notice that life may not be "real" but jobs certainly are!). 

Part of our vacation was a sort of culinary journey. We tried new foods and flavors and I brought home a few spices, pasta, and culinary gadgets to help me recreate some of our favorite European meals. 

We spent the longest part of our trip in Italy, around 11 days and we loved it. We liked the food but didn't always love it. Part of this was since we were on a longer trip we had to skimp on some meals, eating at what we call more of the European "fast food" places like Kebab shops and pizzerias. Don't get me wrong we LOVE both pizza and kebabs, but we didn't get to try as many amazing sit down meals as we would have liked due to our budgetary restrictions. [Don't worry I am already scheming up some sort of trip that focuses all around food!]

Here are some pictures from our trip to the Campo di Fiori, a famous outdoor market, mainly for tourists with spices, pasta, olive oils and fresh fruits and vegetables.


 Every kind of sundried tomato possible!

 
 Pink garlic


 Hunk of love.
 Spice mixes
 Bringing spice mixes home!
 Pasta Pasta Pasta

Anyways, one of my favorite foods in Italy was this pasta dish. It was very simple but it hit the spot. Now granted, it was served to me after a long day of trekking around Rome. In one day we went to the Campo D'Fiori market above, then to the Vatican museums, St. Peter's basilica, Castel San Angelo, and then tried to visit the Roman forum. Needless to say the main requirement for any meal that night was somewhere to sit.

We stumbled on the perfect little restaurant. It was empty, cheap and the restaurant owners were gracious and kind. They gave us free chocolates and helped navigate us to our next stop after dinner. It was definitely one of my favorite meals in Rome: good company, good food, kind strangers, and a reasonably comfortable chair. (I have never walked more in my life than I did in Rome.)

I refuse to share the picture of said pasta dish since it doesn't do it justice and I don't want you to judge my meal unfairly. So just trust me, it was good :)

This recipe is definitely less than 100% authentic but the general flavors still shine true. 
Traditional Amatriciana sauce has 5 prevalent flavors/ingredients:

1. Tomato
So maybe I am not a good cook, but no matter what pasta sauce I make, it never turns out as good as the jarred stuff. So I like to use jarred sauce as a base for all of my sauces. Call me a cheater, I like it that way. You can use your "go to" homemade sauce for this and then add the other ingredients or just use some diced tomatoes and canned tomato sauce. Whatever floats your boat. 
2. Heat
 I used red pepper flakes because they are the easiest to regulate. You could also use a red chili pepper. Don't skimp on the heat as it adds a unique element. Feel free to add more as desired. 
3.  Bacon/pancetta/guanciale
Traditional amatriciana sauce has guanciale, a type of salt cured pork similar to pancetta. Guanciale is easy to find in Italy, but less so in the United States. Pancetta, a similar type of fatty bacon, is easier to find than guanciale but still not nearly as prevalent as bacon. Look near the fine cheeses and meats or ask your butcher. The first time I made this I used pancetta, and the second time I used bacon. Both provide the necessary salt and meat element so use whichever you can find. Pancetta is definitely the more authentic but again, bacon works too :)

  4. Bucatini or Spaghetti pasta
 Bucatini (a type of noodle rounder and fatter than spaghetti) or Spaghetti are traditional, but as you can see from my pictures I just used whatever pasta I had on hand (shame on me). 

 5. Pecorino Romano cheese
The finishing touch. Parmesan works too.



Pasta Amatriciana
The Apron Gal

Ingredients
4-5 pieces guincale, pancetta or bacon, diced
2 cloves/teaspoons garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1 jar pasta sauce of your choice
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt (test before adding)
1/3 cup water

Directions

Cook down the bacon until it is crispy and brown and all the grease is left in the pan. Remove bacon to paper towel lined plate. Pour bacon grease into an old can or mop up with paper towels. Leave a teaspoon or two behind for the garlic and onions as it will add more flavor. 

Cook garlic and onion in remaining bacon fat for a few minutes or until slighty softened. 

Add jar of tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, salt, water and bacon. 

Simmer on low for 10 minutes or until flavors have adequately melded. Add more water if a thinner sauce is desired. Taste to see if additional red pepper flakes and/or salt is desired. 

Serve over pasta.

Grate fresh Pecorino Romano over pasta and sauce. 

Enjoy!

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