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DEAR ROME,
Mi dispiace, ma non ho piu bisogno di te.

I still love you and at times I miss you terribly, but I just don’t need you like I used to.  Once you supplied the glue that held me together and the oxygen I needed to breathe, but I get along without you just fine now.

To a point.

You see, you’re the old lover who became a friend and will always be a part of my life. It all started back in 1992.  I was struck by a lightning bolt (un colpo di fulmine as they say in Italian) right in the middle of Piazza Navona in the high heat of an August day. You came on strong and from that moment forward, it was full on obsessive love. I couldn’t get enough of you.

Now after a 23 year run, I’m ready to let go. I learned a lot from you. You gave me a whole new way of moving in the world, an association with Roman artichokes that follows me to this day, and a trunk load of recipes and stories to tell.

Of course, I’ll come back to you every now and then, but it’s not the same anymore.

So, Rome, here’s my homage to you today: bucatini all’amatriciana. (It is all about the food, the incredible contribution that Italy gave to humanity.) How better to pay tribute to you than with one of your classic pasta dishes, one that I ate often enough to confidently create in my own kitchen and serve to my Roman friends, and one that can be made successfully by anyone anywhere outside of the Eternal City?

RIGATONI ALL’AMATRICIANA

RIG:AMATRThis is not bucatini (the official pasta of amatriciana) because: I have no photos of bucatini; bucatini has a way of whipping around, slapping you in the face, and staining your sweater; and I like rigatoni better.

The origin of this dish goes back to the town of Amatrice in Northern Lazio and didn’t include tomatoes until the Romans seized it and claimed it for their own. Serious food fights have occurred over whether or not to use onions (many Romans seem to prefer it this way— purists, not so much). Romans use only guanciale (similar in taste to pancetta but from the jowl of the pig), but a good quality pancetta can be substituted . This recipe is from The Gioia of Cooking, my friend Gioia Acon’s cooking school in Rome.

BUCATINI (OR RIGATONI) ALL’AMATRICIANA

Ingredients:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 oz diced pancetta or guanciale
1/3 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup Italian dry white wine
1 can (28-oz) San Marzano tomatoes or 3 cups peeled, seeded and chopped fresh plum tomatoes (Use fresh only if they’re top quality sweet tomatoes, otherwise you’ll have far better results with canned)
Sea salt
1 pound rigatoni, bucatini, or spaghetti
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano, about 1/2 cup

Preparation:
1. Bring 5 quarts of water to a boil in large pot.
2. Heat oil in large, high-sided pan, add onions and peperoncino. Cook until onions are soft and golden.
Remove from pan and keep warm.
3. Add pancetta to pan, cook until it begins to crisp. Return onions and peperoncino to pan with pancetta.
4. Raise heat and add white wine to deglaze, stirring with a wooden spoon until liquid is reduced.
5. Add tomatoes, salt to taste, and lower heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Remove peperoncino.
7. Meanwhile add generous amount of salt to boiling water and throw in pasta. Cook to al dente according to package directions .
8. Drain pasta, add to sauce in pan, and mix well.
9. Top with Pecorino Romano.

Serves 6

 

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