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Merrill's daughter Clara has quite the appetite -- and it's all Merrill can do to keep up. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, she steps into the fray.
Today: A little bit of Rome, at home -- an authentic Roman pasta for any night of the week.
My husband, Jonathan, and I spent a few days in Rome in May (it was his first trip there, and my first visit in nearly twenty years). Timing-wise, we struck the culinary jackpot. It was the tail end of artichoke season, and the first strawberries and tomatoes were just appearing in red, juicy piles at the markets -- it was a near-perfect marriage of late spring and summer produce.
We cooked dinner one night in the sweet little kitchen of the flat we found on Airbnb: fresh ravioli stuffed with ricotta and a hint of truffle in a simple sauce of butter and Parmesan, and a tomato and green bean salad dressed with balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of grassy olive oil from 2-liter plastic bottle filled for us at the market from a large steel vat. We drank sparking rosé from a similar plastic bottle, filled from its own steel vat, and we had strawberries and biscotti for dessert.
More: Try your hand at making shaped pasta with a seasonal, bright ravioli.
We also had too many great restaurant meals to count. Jonathan's favorite dish, which he ordered probably five times in as many days, was pasta all'amatriciana. Made with guanciale (cured pork jowl), tomato and Pecorino Romano, amatriciana is a classic Roman sauce, prepared a little differently by every cook who makes it. It's rich and salty and bright all at once, and when I saw how much Jonathan enjoyed it I promised to make it for him when we got home. I had little doubt that Clara would like it too, since "pasta with meat sauce" of any kind tops her current list of favorite foods.
More: Pick up some extra guanciale for a pizza suitable for breakfast and dinner.
I prepared my version with bucatini, which is like a thicker version of spaghetti with a hollow middle (this is the "buco," or "hole," that gives the pasta its name). It's one of my favorite shapes and the most popular choice for amatriciana in Rome. While some people eschew one or the other, I added both onion and garlic, plus some red pepper flakes, another optional ingredient. And because ever since I started making Marcella's sauce I have to add a knob of butter to all tomato sauces to smooth out the edges, I threw that in too.
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces guanciale (if you can't find guanciale you can use pancetta or unsmoked bacon), roughly chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more for serving (optional)
1 small clove garlic, peeled and smashed
2 cups chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pound bucatini
Grated Pecorino Romano, for serving
Photos by Mark Weinberg