Sugo all'amatricana is an Italian pasta sauce. Traditionally, it's made by slow cooking guanciale (cured pork cheek) and tomatoes, and then adding pecorino cheese.
The following recipe is a modified version that uses more vegetables, bacon instead of guanciale, and SarVecchio Parmesan (an American version of Parmigiano-Reggiano). While easier to find than the
guanciale, the bacon gives the sauce a smoky quality. Pecorino is a sheep's milk cheese that is often an acquired taste, but SarVecchio has an easier flavor that complements the sweetness of the
tomatoes and carrots in this version.
SarVecchio is generally available at any grocery store with a decent cheese section, but feel free to use the traditional pecorino. Or if you can't find either, good substitutes are
Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, or any high-quality Parmesan.
Enough about what it tastes like, here's what you'll need:
- Tomatoes (1 lb)
- Carrots (2)
- Celery (2 sticks)
- Onion (1)
- Jalapeño (1)
- Garlic (4 cloves)
- Thick-cut bacon (about 4 oz)
- SarVecchio parmesan (½ cup grated)
- Olive oil (2 tablespoons)
- Salt & Pepper (to taste)
- Red pepper flakes (1 teaspoon)
- Whole-wheat pasta (12 oz)
Note The traditional pasta for this sauce is bucatini, which is basically thick spaghetti with a hole running down the center. However, I prefer penne or even fusilli. With the added vegetables, this sauce is chunkier than the traditional version, and penne holds the sauce better than bucatini.
1. Chop stuff up (Mise en place)
First, get everything ready:
- Cut the bacon (4 oz) into ¼ inch pieces. (Here I used Black Forest bacon.)
- Dice up the:
• Carrots (2)
• Celery (2 sticks)
• Onion (1)
• Jalapeño (1)
• Garlic (4 cloves)
• Tomatoes (1 lb)
2. Start cooking
Next, start cooking the sauce:
- Heat up a skillet using medium heat, and then add the olive oil (2 tablespoons).
- Once the skillet is heated, add the bacon (4 oz). Cook it until the bacon is slightly browned and crispy looking—about 3 – 5 minutes.
- Once you've browned the bacon, add the jalapeño (1) and garlic (4 cloves). Cook until the garlic is slightly browned—about 2 minutes.
- Next, add the onion (1), carrots (2), and celery (2 sticks).
- Also add salt (1 teaspoon), pepper (½ teaspoon), and if you like your food spicy, add red pepper flakes (1 teaspoon). Cook until the vegetables are softened and slightly browned—about 5 minutes.
- Once you've browned the vegetables a bit, add the tomatoes (1 lb).
- Lower the heat to medium low and simmer the sauce for an hour, stirring occasionally.
3. Cook the pasta
When the sauce is almost finished simmering, cook the pasta:
- Cook the pasta (12 oz) in boiling, salted water for about 1 minute less than you typically would. You'll finish cooking it in the sauce.
- While the pasta is cooking, grate the cheese (about a ½ cup).
- Reserve a couple cups of pasta water, and set them aside. Then drain the pasta.
4. Combine the sauce & pasta
Once you've cooked the sauce and pasta, combine them:
- Turn the heat up on the skillet to medium high, and then add the drained pasta and about 1 cup of pasta water to the sauce. The sauce should be a bit too watery at this point. If it's not, add more water.
- Use a spatula to stir the pasta and watery sauce. As you stir the pasta, the water will evaporate and the sauce will thicken. Stirring constantly will speed up the evaporation and avoid overcooking the pasta.
- Once the sauce has thickened a bit, taste it and add more salt and pepper if needed. Typically, I add about another teaspoon of salt at this point.
- When the sauce has thickened to the point where it's coating the pasta, but not running off it, add the cheese (½ cup) slowly while stirring. Reserve a little bit to sprinkle on top once you're done.
Once you've mixed the cheese, just dish up the pasta, and sprinkle a little cheese on top.