A cheeky Italian
After enjoying our delicious gelato and granita at Gelupo we stopped to have a look around the small deli at the back of the shop. As well as picking up some beautiful blood oranges (see the last post) and some San Pellegrino Chinotto I couldn't resist the delicious looking guanciale that comes from over the road at Boca de Lupo. Guancialeis a cured, but unsmoked, pigs cheek from central Italy that is a traditional ingredient of the classic Italian pasta dishes all'Amatriciana and carbonara. A nice, simple pasta sauce, how hard could that be?
There seems to be a simple rule in food history: the simpler and more traditional the dish the more hotly disputed are its providence and ingredients. Take any classic recipe and then try and find a 'definitive' version of it. Should there be breadcrumbs in cassoulet? Jelly in trifle? Carrots in Irish Stew? These are the great debates hotly contested around many dinner tables.
All'Amatriciana is no different. Hailing (probably) from the town of Amitrice in the Lazio region, which gives the sauce its name, it is made from guanciale, tomatoes and Pecorino cheese. The dish originally descended from the sauce gricia, from the village of Grisciano, which consisted of just guanciale and pecorino. It saw the addition of tomatoes, then spread to Rome and is now considered a 'Roman' classic, despite not originating there.
The real dispute comes over the addition of onions. They seem to be disliked in Amarice, but feature in Roman cookbooks. I have eaten all'Amitricaiana in a little trattoria in Rome, but must confess I was too distracted by several black hairs in my dinner to notice if there were onions in the sauce or not... There is also lesser debate over adding black pepper, garlic and chilis to the dish. I love spicy food but here I have kept things simple to let the flavours shine through.
The deciding factor in the ingredients of my all'amtriciana came with the decision over what pasta to use. In Amatrice spaghetti is used while bucatini (a slightly thicker, hollow spaghetti) is preferred in Rome. As I had buccatini in the cupboard the decision had been made: onions it was then.
200g guanciale (or pancetta) diced
1 small onion diced
2 tins tomatoes
Fry the guincale, with extra olive oil if needed, in a pan until starting to crisp slightly. Remove from pan and drain.
Add onions to fat still in the pan and cook until softened.
Add tomatoes and reserved guanciale to pan and simmer for about 15 minutes or until sauce is thickened
Meanwhile boil a large saucepan of salted water and cook pasta until al dente (approx 9-10 minutes)
Drain pasta, reserving some of the cooking water, and return to pan.
Add tomato sauce and pecorino cheese to pasta and stir through, adding reserved pasta water if needed.
Serve immediately with black pepper and extra cheese
Apologies for the blurry photo, it really doesn't do it justice, but I was in a hurry to eat this while it was hot! This dish really is simple perfection, fatty pork, salty cheese and the sweet tomato makes a perfect combination. And as you can rustle it up in less than half and hour it gives you more time to relax with a nice Italian red.