what’s cooking wednesday: pasta all’amatriciana

Just in time for our cooler, rainier autumn days, today’s What’s Cooking Wednesday is simple, stick to your ribs goodness–Pasta all’Amatriciana, so named because it hails from a town called Amatrice, outside of Rome.

What follows is our interpretation of this recipe in my house. We use penne instead of the traditional bucatini, but we do use pancetta arrotolata like most recipes for this call for. Oh and we add just a touch of garlic.

What’s pancetta arrotolata you say? Well, it’s just rolled pancetta, and it looks like this:

pancetta arrotolata

You can read more about it here, but now I’m going to tell that we, lovers of all things spicy, don’t actually add any of our wonderful peperoncino to this dish–we just buy the spicy pancetta instead. See that reddish orange tint inside the rolls? That’s hot, and by that I mean piccante and not Paris Hilton-y.

As a substitute meat, you can use anything similar–we also prepare this recipe with Calabria’s most famous salami, soppressata, or even capicollo (and then add peperoncino). Just keep it chunky and spicy, and yum.

We’re lucky here in Calabria since its tradition of curing meats dates back to the days when Greeks first colonized this area–we’re talking B.C. So yes, they know what they’re doing, and the results are always fabulous.

For those of you lucky enough to be near an Italian market, do make the effort to seek out some of these meats. They’re great in antipasti and also as ingredients in a wide variety of dishes.

Like many Calabrian-Americans, we always had soppressata in our basement in America–my grandfather (non-Italian!), father, and brother would make them and we’d dig in for a Christmas-time treat. Sliced reeeeally thin with some fresh bread is my favorite. Anyone else?

Interestingly but not surprisingly, the local butcher who provides the spice mix to make the “soupies” as we called them (among Calabrians, “soppressata” becomes “suppressata,” and Americans love to make little nicknames, right?) has origins in Isca, which I wrote about yesterday.

So you see, I was also lucky in America.

Pasta all’Amatriciana

pasta all'amatriciana

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
100 grams pancetta arrotolata,
unrolled and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
1 can peeled tomatoes
500 grams penne pasta
water and salt to boil pasta
grated pecorino romano cheese to garnish


First put on the water to boil for the pasta, and then chop all your ingredients as described above.Put olive oil in skillet and heat on medium. Add pancetta, and let cook for about five minutes, until the pancetta renders its fat. I know, yum, right?

Then add the onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic and parsley and let cook for another minute or so.

At this point, your water should be boiling, and you can add salt and the pasta to the water (or do this whenever your water *is* boiling after this point).

Now add the tomatoes to the skillet. You can run them through a grinder or roughly chop them first depending on how you like them. You can also add some of the pasta water to thin out the sauce a bit; I usually use about 1/4 cup.Let the sauce simmer for about 1o minutes or until the tomatoes taste done to you. You can add salt, but do so sparingly because the pancetta is salty and you’ve also added salted pasta water.

When the pasta is just short of al dente, remove, strain, and combine well with the completely cooked sauce, still over medium heat.

Once the pasta has absorbed some of the sauce and become fully al dente, remove and serve immediately. Garnish with grated pecorino romano cheese.

A note:

Don’t worry if your timing isn’t exact the first time you make this–it’ll get easier the more you make it, which is only more incentive to keep pancetta in your fridge.

Buon appetito!


[tags]pasta, pasta all’amatriciana, pancetta, pancetta arrotolata, cooking, recipes, what’s cooking wednesday[/tags]


27 Beans of Wisdom to “what’s cooking wednesday: pasta all’amatriciana”
  1. Piccola

    OMG! My mouth is watering just looking at the pic of the pancetta. We loves us some good pancetta!! I’m gonna have to try your recipe for myself, and what a sacrifice that will be….:)

  2. Gil

    My Polish neighbor usually makes a monthly run to buy “soupy” in Westerly, RI a nearby haven of Calbrians (sp?). It seems that the meat is ground rather than chopped, probably a result of Americans trying to speed things up. But it is still hot and spicy.

  3. Loulou

    One of my MOST favorite pasta sauces! I love the smoky pancetta and the spice.

  4. sognatrice

    Piccola, I’m a pancetta lover too–let me know if you make this!

    Gil, I’m sure the suppressata is still delicious with the ground meat. I’m not actually a big cured meat fan, but for these kind of things, I make an exception.

    Loulou, me too, me too! Can’t believe I didn’t post this recipe before, in fact.

  5. KC

    Yum, that’s one of my favorites. We never use the bucatini either, they’re a bit “antipatici,” as N likes to say. The pictures had me salivating.

  6. nyc/caribbean ragazza

    ahhh. this is one of my favorite dishes of all time! it’s perfect.

  7. sognatrice

    KC, neither P nor I enjoy unridged pasta at all, so bucatini never had a chance in this house πŸ˜‰

    NYC, you’ll be eating a lot of this when you get to Roma!!!

  8. Shelley - At Home in Rome

    This is a specialty in our house… yum.

    When we went to Amatrice in search of the perfect amatriciana, they freaked out when we mentioned that onions are part of the recipe. Everywhere we went, in restaurants and then by polling informally the people we met there, everyone told us that you NEVER put onions in real amatriciana and you’d never use pancetta but guanciale (the pancetta vs. guanciale debate is a big deal here also for carbonara). See how the food “crimes” are everywhere? πŸ˜‰ But here in Rome I’m pretty sure onions sauteed in oil are usually part of the deal.

  9. sognatrice

    Shelley, yes, I can’t believe I forgot to mention guanciale–I suppose because we never buy it here, even though that really is a traditional way of making Amatriciana (I’d never use it in carbonara either).

    I’ve never heard of Amatriciana without onions though (without garlic is normal)–what the heck do they put in it then? Just tomatoes and pancetta/guanciale? Bor-ing, Amatriciani πŸ˜‰

  10. Shelley - At Home in Rome

    Yep, I guess they just leave the onions out and call it a day. Silly purists. I have a confession to make: the amatriciana I ate in Amatrice was the worst I’ve ever tasted. Now, whether that is because my palate is so completely unrefined that I am unable to identify “authenticity” when I taste it, or whether it’s because the place is so overrated they don’t care anymore (my guess)… I don’t know. I forget where it was, but we asked all the locals where the best place to go for amatriciana was and ended up somewhere that just didn’t impress me at all. Boh.

  11. sognatrice

    Shelley, purists schmurists, I say! If there ain’t no onion or garlic, how can it be Italian? πŸ˜‰

    Anyway, just goes to show that many times si mangia meglio a casa πŸ˜‰

  12. Tarie

    Yay, what’s cooking Wednesday! πŸ™‚ You’ve caused a craving, as usual. I now MUST eat pasta as soon as possible.

  13. Jen

    Oh, another YUM recipe! I’ll definitely be making this in the week or so – we still have tomatoes and we’ve got the fall weather rolling in. I had the melanzane ripiene, but I have to admit we baked ours – I’m sure it wasn’t as good, but necessary in DH and my cases… These are wonderful recipes!
    Between you and Amanda I could just never make one of my own recipes again!
    And thanks for stopping by. I’m slowly getting the bloglines thing together πŸ˜‰

  14. Miss Mrs...a blog of everyday delights

    Looks great, and now I’m ready for lunch! πŸ™‚

  15. Dana

    I love your fabulous recipes! I just put the last of the pancetta I had in a white bean soup, so I’m going to have to head down to Little Italy this weekend for some pancetta, sopressata and fresh pasta, which I love doing anyway! πŸ™‚
    I’m also very jealous that you always had sopressata in your basement when you were younger!

  16. sognatrice

    Tarie, well get this girl some pasta!

    Jen, baked is definitely still tasty where the melanzane are concerned; glad you enjoyed. Aren’t Amanda’s recipes fabulous? Yum!

    Miss Mrs, buon appetito!

    Dana, like I said, I was very lucky to always be surrounded by suppressata. I’m jealous you get to go the Italian market–sounds strange coming from someone in Italy, I know, but there’s just such a special atmosphere in Italian-American markets….

  17. flutter

    Um, yum. I have a recipe for farmer’s pasta that I think you would absolutely love, too. With pancetta it’s fantastic.

    Let me know if you’d like me to email it to you

  18. Frances

    Thump! Her head hits the keyboard.
    Frances has fainted!
    The pasta in the picture just look so good she lost it!
    Caio Bella,

  19. sognatrice

    Flutter, sΓ¬ sΓ¬! I’d love the recipe!!!

    Frances, oh dear. I hope that didn’t hurt too much. You deserve some pasta to make you feel better πŸ™‚

  20. witnessing am i

    That pasta looks so utterly simple and so completely delicious. Yum.

    Have I mentioned (repeatedly) how much I hate coming here on Wednesdays?

  21. anno

    Whimper. Sigh.

    Really, you need to warn people before they load pictures like this one.

    Here I am, editing a dreadful set of admissions essays, with nothing in the house but some dried out chicken (rotisseried, and once delicious, but I think that was on Saturday) and some cooked egg noodles (now on their second or third re-heating). And so I think, I’ll drop in on Sognatrice and see what is going on in Italy… then there’s this, and oh, gosh, I love pancetta… and everything else in this dish.

    Sniff. Sob.

    I think I’m making my husband take us out for dinner tonight.

  22. Maryann

    I’m lucky to be able to buy all these meats here in NY. We grew up eating all these things. Your pasta dish looks delicious πŸ™‚

  23. sognatrice

    David, I’m sorry. Maybe I should send you a warning/reminder on Tuesdays?

    Anno, well I *do* hope you got a great dinner out of this anyway πŸ˜‰

    Maryann, lucky indeed, and thanks!

  24. Figs Olives Wine

    What a heavenly post and recipe! My mouth is watering. I have never seen hot pancetta here – such a bummer. But we do have fabulous spicy sopressata, which I also love sliced thinly with bread. Unadulterated heaven. And PS, I’d go with the onions too. Why not after all? They add depth and savor without altering the basic flavor profile.

  25. sognatrice

    Amanda, thanks for the back-up on the onions. I just love pancetta and onions together in general…what can I say?

  26. Miss Eliza

    Well, I gave it a shot… though this being Minnesota I’m hard pressed to find pancetta (much less spicy! Heaven forbid something have some kick to it!)… and so I added some crushed red pepper since I couldn’t find fresh pepperoncino, either. BUT it was delicious! The pasta ended up a little overdone (I blame a diaper change mis-cooking) but it was still fabulous. Mangia!

  27. sognatrice

    Miss Eliza, yeah! So glad you enjoyed it–timing with the pasta is always tricky, so don’t beat yourself up too much πŸ˜‰

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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Calabria travel guide by Michelle Fabio



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