Barbs Italian Special – Cooking Corner

2 Feb, 2021
One of my favorite main courses, Pasta All'Amatriciana - Barb Schafer

Pasta All’Amatriciana

Chuck and I were introduced to this dish on a trip to Italy in 2016, shortly after the earthquake in Amatrice, a small town in central Italy.  Restaurants were fundraising to help the village rebuild and recover.  If we ordered the dish, one euro would be contributed to the fund.  So, at our favorite little neighborhood place in Florence, we did just that – we ordered without knowing what we would be getting.  We loved the dish!  It’s an unexpected combination of bacon, onion and tomatoes tossed over pasta.  Who knew?  It’s delicious!

Over the next few years I experimented, buying expensive smoked pork cheeks, fancy bucatini and classy cans of San Marzano tomatoes from Seattle’s Italian deli.  But I never really found a recipe that was reliable, and I couldn’t recapture the clean, simple taste that we experienced at Da Panzanella.  And then we came to Portugal…

So here is my recipe, and it checks all the boxes.  Plus, it’s cheap!  Here are the ingredients, which I buy at Lid’l 

First, I prep my ingredients, chopping half an onion into small dice and chopping the canned tomatoes.  Sometimes I pour the tomatoes in a bowl and squeeze them with my hand; sometimes I put them on the cutting board and dice them with a sharp knife.  Either way, I remove any bits of skin or tough roots… anything I don’t think looks perfect.  I’m in charge!

Then it’s on to the stove.  Using my largest burner turned on to medium high, I put a little olive oil in my large skillet and then add the container of bacon.

When the bacon is browned and crispy I take it out of the pan and set it aside.

Next, the onions go into the bacon fat and slowly cook until they are translucent.  I don’t want them to caramelize so I keep the heat low enough to prevent too much color.

When the onions are ready the tomatoes go in, along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, plus a grinding of black pepper.  Of course, you will want to adjust the seasonings to your taste.  The canned tomatoes I use are unsalted so it’s critical to add a generous amount of salt, but if you use another brand you may not need to add any at all.  Taste before you season!   

The cayenne is also a matter of personal taste, but it’s a great addition if you like a little heat.

Once the sauce is simmering I put the big pot on for cooking the pasta.  We like this thin spaghetti, but you could use any pasta shape you like.  Be sure to put a tablespoon of salt in the pasta water as you add the dry pasta, and cook the pasta until it is just a little less done than you like.  Add the cooked pasta to the simmering sauce and heat them together to marry the flavors.  If the sauce has become a bit dry, add some pasta water.

That’s it!  Three ingredients plus seasoning, about 25 minutes, and you get a great simple dish that everyone loves!  Enjoy!

So that’s my idea. I have other recipes with photos. I send them to my kids. Let me know what you think. Try the recipe!