Sugo all’amatriciana, by special request.

Since I haven’t written a recipe up in a while, I thought it was high time I posted this sauceone, which has been lurking in the back of my mind for weeks. The rather lovely @CornishPol has been asking me to put it online, and I do owe her something in return for the particularly fine Rapper’s Delight sampler which she made for me (it looks like this, in case you’re wondering).

I’d like to preface this recipe with the caveat that this is not strictly an authentic sugo all’amatriciana. The genuine article is supposed, according to the magisterial Cucchiaio d’Argento, to contain onions instead of garlic. However, I once had a very nasty experience with a pasta all’amatriciana in Capri: it was oniony in the way that a rather greasy hot dog might be, and it not only stank out the entire restaurant but also made me feel rather ill for the rest of the night. Even cooking the recipe with non-greasy onions, I found I wasn’t over-fond of the texture of the sauce they produced. Following the advice of my friend’s housemate, a Bologna native and excellent cook, I substituted garlic for onion, and have never looked back. Emiliano was insistent that the garlic clove should merely be fried in the oil to impart flavour before being discarded, but I couldn’t square this with my garlic-loving conscience. The garlic in my sauce stays very much in the dish! Additionally, the sauce really should be made with guanciale, though if you’ve ever tried to find this in your local supermarket, you’ll understand why I’ve substituted pancetta.

Sugo all’amatriciana

To serve 2-3 people, you will need:

  • 2 or 3 plump cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • A generous teaspoonful of dried chilli flakes
  • 100-150g diced pancetta, depending on how meaty you would like your sauce to be.
  • A 400g tin of chopped tomatoes (please, please use Cirio if you can: the flavour is so much better than any other type I have tried)
  • A small carton of passata (about 200g)
  • Grated pecorino to serve

You will also need a lidded frying pan or a large saucepan: the lid is important.

Heat a good slug of olive oil in your pan, add the crushed garlic and chilli and fry for a moment, but not for too long, or they will burn. Add the pancetta to the pan, and continue to fry until the fat starts to crisp. Stir in your tomatoes and passata and continue to heat until the sauce is bubbling merrily. Add a pinch of sugar to the pan and stir through: this will enhance the flavour of the tomatoes. At this point, half-cover the pan with the lid (you want to let steam escape while minimising the amount of tomato splashed around your kitchen), and turn the heat down to medium. Let the sauce reduce for 20-30 minutes, checking on it periodically: if it looks like it is reducing too quickly, turn the heat down further, or add a little water and/or a drizzle of olive oil to the pan. You are aiming to reduce it quite drastically, so that it will coat the pasta rather than pooling around it, as the somewhat steamy pictures below show:

Serve with bucatini, spaghetti or a similar type of pasta (I used maccheroni alla chitarra, just for the heck of it), and make sure you stir plenty of finely grated pecorino through before dishing up. This is a very simple dish (the use of tinned tomatoes and dried chilli flakes makes it something of a store cupboard staple), but it’s rather tasty, and a good way to warm yourself up on a cold winter evening.

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4 thoughts on “Sugo all’amatriciana, by special request.

  1. Yummy. I’m getting hungry as we speak (or rather as I write).

    PS I owe you an explanation as to why my housemate’s father laughed so hard when I collected wild garlic in the wood near his house. It grows in such abundance in that area that a pungent garlic smell hangs in the air all summer and understandably people could do without. Therefore it is considered a weed, not a fashionable ingredient like in modern food industry. He just couldn’t get his head round why I wanted this “weed” to cook with sobadly. 😉

    My cat Muckel thanks you for being his first subscriber but adds there should be more meat in the sugo. MEAT! he says, is important, carnivore that he is.

    • I’m getting quite keen on the idea of cooking with so-called weeds: I have a rather tasty-looking recipe for dandelion marmelade which I want to try out next year!

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