Make classic Bucatini all’Amatriciana with this simple recipe and you’ll have dinner on the table in less than half an hour! A simple combination of tender bucatini noodles, spicy tomato sauce, pancetta and Pecorino Romano cheese, it’s likely to become one of your favorite busy day meals!
Where did Amatriciana Sauce come from?
Though this dish originated in the town of Amatrice, where it was made with spaghetti noodles, now it’s popular all over Italy. The use of bucatini pasta began in Rome and is now the more prevalent pasta choice. Amatriciana sauce was also originally made with guanciale (cured pork cheek or pork jowl), which can be difficult to find in the United States. Pancetta (or Homemade Pancetta) stands in nicely.
I first tried Bucatini all’Amatriciana (my first Pasta Aglio e Olio too) at Trinacria, a tiny Italian restaurant in Olympia, Washington. It’s the kind of place that you could mistake for a dive: lettuce green walls and neon lights, rickety chairs and inexpensive wine. But it’s iconic in Olympia, well known for fantastic food, curt service (Enjoying the music one evening, Keith and I asked our server what it was. Her quick reply, “Annoying.” We liked her immediately.) and the friendly but quirky first generation Italian owner, Eugenio.
Despite living in the United States for decades, Eugenio spoke with a strong accent. I once asked him about the ingredients in his Amatriciana sauce, his reply, “Oh yes, yes…I start with…and then…” As he rattled off the ingredients and preparation, his accent became mysteriously stronger, as though he didn’t really want to share his secrets.
So I decided to figure it out on my own and after a few tries, I had it.
Do not be alarmed when you see the short ingredient list and simple instructions, thinking that something so easy can’t be spectacularly good. I promise it is. In fact, I predict it will become a go-to pasta dish.
Bucatini is thin and long like spaghetti, but has a hollow center. If you can’t find bucatini, spaghetti is a great substitute.
Whole tomatoes tend to cook down more quickly than crushed or diced tomatoes. But crushing them in the pan can be a messy process. An easy answer is to cut the whole tomatoes into smaller pieces right in the can using kitchen shears (pictured below).
It’s fun to give your pasta a twirl before plating it. See the recipe video for exactly how to do it with a carving fork and large serving spoon.
More classic italian pastas to try
- Bolognese Sauce (We learned to make this in a cooking class in Bologna, Italy. It’s easy and amazing!)
- Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta (A weeknight favorite in our house!)
- Pasta Aglio e Olio (If you’ve seen the movie ‘Chef’, you know this one! 😉 )
- Pasta alla Norma (If you’re an eggplant lover, you have to try this pasta! Loads of custardy, roasted eggplant are tossed with pasta in a silky tomato sauce.)
How to make Bucatini all’Amatriciana
Step 1: Brown pancetta in a large skillet; remove with slotted spoon and pour off most of the fat.
Step 2: To same skillet add onions; cook and stir until softened and translucent. Stir in tomatoes, chili flakes, and pancetta; cook and stir, crushing the tomatoes. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Step 3: Meanwhile, cook bucatini according to package directions; reserve 1 cup cooking liquid.
Step 4: Add drained, cooked pasta to sauce; gently stir to coat.
Step 5: Serve topped with grated Pecorino Romano and parsley.
Easy Bucatini all’Amatriciana
- 1/4 pound pancetta diced small (see recipe note #1 for easy homemade pancetta recipe)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion sliced into thin slivers
- 4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 28-ounce can whole tomatoes with juice (recipe note #2)
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes or more
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound dry bucatini pasta or spaghetti
- 2 ounces Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, grated
- 1/4 cup Italian parsley finely chopped
- Cook and stir pancetta in a large skillet over medium heat until brown. Remove from heat and transfer pancetta to a paper towel. Pour off most or all of the fat from the skillet, but no need to wash it.
- Return skillet to stove over medium heat; add olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook and stir until onion is translucent. Add tomatoes, red chili flakes and pancetta; cook and stir, crushing tomatoes with the spoon. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes or until sauce has thickened.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook bucatini according to package directions and drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.
- Add cooked pasta to sauce; cook and stir until thoroughly combined and heated through, adding reserved cooking liquid as needed to loosen the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving platter and sprinkle grated pecorino and parsley over the top. Serve.
- Want to make your own easy homemade pancetta? Try this pancetta recipe.
- Though I love the consistency of whole tomatoes, crushing them in the pan can be messy. Instead, use kitchen shears to cut them into smaller pieces right in the can! (See recipe video for a visual of this.)
- If you plan to have leftovers, save extra pasta cooking liquid and pour some into the bottom of your storage container before adding the leftover pasta. When you reheat it, you’ll be happy to have the extra liquid.