Real Recipe Wednesday: Bucatini all’amatriciana

It’s been a delicious month here at My Bella Vita with recipes ranging from Pasta Aglio Olio Peperoncino to Sicilian mollica and Naple’s own delectably sweet sfogliatella. The Real Recipe Wednesday series continues today with one of my personal favorites, Bucatini all’amatriciana, from Mary of Flavors of Abruzzo.

Welcome, Mary!

Bucatini all’amatriciana is named after the town of Amatrice which is now in Lazio, but up until 1923 was part of the Province of Aquila … so this is really an Abruzzese dish-and one that is a local favorite around the region.

This sauce is served best with bucatini, a tubular spaghetti-like pasta that goes well with thick sauces. Many people make this dish with pancetta, even though the original recipe calls for guanciale. (Guanciale is very similar to pancetta, however it is made with the cheek of the pig instead of the belly; belly in Italian is pancia, hence pancetta while cheek is guancia, hence guanciale. )

If you can’t find guanciale, this dish is still good when it’s made with pancetta. If you can’t find pancetta, then look for something called salt pork, which is available in supermarkets in the US. The recipe won’t be quite the same, but it will still be good. Please don’t use bacon though. It’s smoked and will completely change the flavor of the dish.

As you can see from the photo at the top, my guanciale already has some hot pepper on top. However, even though the meat is already spicy, I add more hot pepper to the dish. To be honest, I never really liked spicy dishes before, but since living here I’ve gotten used to it and this dish is best when it’s nice and piccante.

Hot pepper is a staple here in Abruzzo. Whenever pasta is served, a fresh hot pepper is usually passed around with the grated cheese. Each person uses a small pair of scissors or a sharp knife to add slivers of it to their plate, mixing it in with the pasta. However, if you do this, every once in a while you get a bite that explodes with hot pepper. Even though this recipe has pepper already added in, I’ve seen people add even more. If you like a really spicy dish, feel free to add more pepper once the dish is on the table.

I also often see onions used in this recipe; I’ve never used onions or eaten this dish when it was made with onions, so I haven’t included them here.

So, let’s get cooking.

Side Note: Please, don’t add black pepper to this recipe. It’s one of my pet peeves that every recipe in America calls for black pepper as if it’s a staple of life, even when the original recipe doesn’t use it at all. Honestly, it doesn’t seem to be used very often here at all. I most often see it in sopressata and certain other cured meat and salami or in the dish Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Ahem.

But, back to today’s recipe …

For 500 grams of Pasta you will need:

>> 200 grams guanciale (about 7 ounces)
>> 1 large can chopped tomatoes
>> extra-virgin olive oil
>> 1/2 glass of white wine
>> 1 tsp+ ground hot pepper or hot pepper flakes
>> salt
>> grated Pecorino or Parmigiano cheese


1. Start your water boiling for your pasta and add salt. This sauce does not take long to cook. In fact, it’s best when it’s chunky, so you don’t want to cook your tomatoes for too long. The pasta will take about nine minutes to cook, so start making your sauce a few minutes before throwing your pasta in the water.

2. Cut the guanciale or pancetta into small cubes and place in a large frying pan with high sides along with a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook over high heat for a few minutes until it has started to change color and the fat has mostly melted, but don’t let it get crispy.

3. Add the wine to the pan, stir and then add your tomatoes, hot pepper and salt to the pan, bringing to a simmer. Lower the heat and cook for a few minutes more. Taste it for salt and hot pepper, adding more according to your preferences. At this point, if your pasta is not yet done, turn the burner off and cover with a lid to keep the heat inside.

4. Once your pasta is cooked, strain it, add it to the pan with the sauce, toss it all together and pass the grated cheese.

Buon Appetito!

5 Responses
  1. Thanks for this recipe! I love the bacon/tomato sauces that are a little spicy, but I never knew that white wine goes in and black pepper doesn’t 🙂 I’ll do it the right way next time! Thanks a bunch!

    Yea, I never made mine with white wine, either … will next time, though!

  2. This is my FAVE pasta dish when in Rome………at Hotel 47 it is fantastico. Sadly I tried to make it in NY and was forced to substitute prosciutto. Not the same. Guess I’ll have to return to Rome.

    Oooh, try it again, this time with the pancetta Mary recommended!

  3. One of my all time favourites but … I never order it in a restaurant because I always, ALWAYS end up with sauce all over myself. The bucatini are so hard to turn! When they serve them in the office caffeteria, I cut them up like you do for little kids, but when I am alone, watch out I dive right in!!

    Ha. I thought you were gonna say you never order in a restaurant b/c you like how you make it better! Yes, it is hard to eat … maybe another one of those “better in private” type of things? 🙂

  4. Cherrye, Thank you so much for retaining authenticity in your recipe(s). This is my first visit to your site and it will not be my last. Simplicity is the best and following tradition is also very important. Sadly, I am allergic to garlic – and the only place I can get garlic-free food is Italy!! This has taught me not to add things when they aren’t called for – garlic, black pepper, cheese and so on. I am headed for Rome in September and will look forward to a traditional Bucatini all’Amatriciano. (But I will make your recipe first to whet my appetite!) Mille grazie!

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