It is a deceptively simple and delicious sauce of tomato, guanciale (cured and ever so slightly smoked pork jowl), a hint of chile and pecorino (sheeps milk cheese), which is used both in the sauce as well as a garnish. It traditionally is paired with bucatini pasta, but spaghetti or even rigatoni are also used. It is important to cook the pasta al dente—look at the recommended boiling time on the packet and take off 1 minute.
A tiny splash of white wine sometimes makes an appearance, as does a drop of olive oil (although many will point out that sizzling guanciale produces enough of its own fat and flavour of its own that it is an unnecessary addition). Like other historical dishes with thousands of years of proud history and culture behind them, making amatriciana involves respecting rules. One of those most frequently broken is the addition of onion or garlic in the sauce—don't go there. —Emiko
4 generous portions
(400 grams) bucatini, spaghetti, or rigatoni
Put a large pot of water on to boil the pasta and when it starts boiling, salt it with 2 teaspoons of salt.
In the meantime, prepare the guanciale. Cut off the tough layer of rind (the “cotenna,” in Italian), if present, then slice the rest of the guanciale (which should be mostly fat with a thin streak of flesh through it) thinly, then into sticks about 1/4 inch (5mm) wide.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and fry the guanciale pieces until the fat has melted and sizzled to a golden brown. Add the tomato and chile and bring back to a simmer over low-medium heat. Let cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Just before taking off the heat, add the pecorino cheese and stir through, until the sauce is creamy. Set aside until pasta is ready.
Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente—I recommend looking at the timing instructed on the packet and taking off a minute or so. Drain the pasta, saving about a cup full of the pasta's cooking water. Add the pasta directly to the skillet with the amatriciana sauce, along with a splash of the cooking water, to help loosen the sauce. You want the sauce to easily coat the pasta but still be quite thick. Toss well until the pasta is coated (if the sauce has gone cold, reheat it before tossing) then serve immediately, with more pecorino over the top if desired.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.