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Amatriciana and Carbonara, the Pasta of Rome

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Last time I made Carbonara on here,(a long long time ago) I got harassed a bit in the comments for putting cream into the sauce. Honestly, I made a decent version of the dish, but just because I added a splash of cream, people got mad. I have looked since, and there are some really really awful and offensive versions of carbonara out there on the web with nothing but nice and happy comments, so I'm not sure why I was singled out. (might have been the aggressive cheesy bread?) Either way, when I was in Rome last week, I made it my duty to seek out some authentic carbonara and see what the fuss was about.

My journey led me first to a dish called Rigatoni Alla Gricia, followed by Bucatini Alla Amatriciana, and then Spaghetti Alla Carbonara. These dishes had 3 things in common. First, the pasta was very al dente. Like, to the point that I apparently didn't know what al dente really meant, because the pasta was straight up crunching in my mouth. Second, lots of pecorino romano cheese, and third, ample bits of crispy guanciale, a cured meat similar to pancetta, but made with the jowl instead of the belly. Alla Gricia predates the other dishes by a long shot, and is sort of the vanilla of the three dishes. Add some tomatoes and chile flake, and you have Amatriciana, add some eggs instead, and there's your carbonara.

When I got home, I was dying to get into the kitchen to make these two dishes. I wanted to do it for redemption for my last carbonara post, but also to see if it was really just as simple as it seemed. These were my favorite two plates of food I had my entire time in Italy, could they really only take 20 minutes and 5 ingredients to make? You might be tempted to add onion or garlic like many recipes out there... DON'T DO IT! You may also think you can substitute pancetta or even bacon, (like 2008 Dan) but please please go out and find that guanciale. Then just take your time and enjoy cooking and eating something that has been made the same way for hundreds of years.


I bought my guanciale at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge where they make their own! It really helped this simple dish shine.



A pound broken up between the two dishes.



Amatriciana first. Brown up the guanciale.



Then add the tomatoes.



Cook your pasta, then add it right to the sauce.



It's out of this world simple. Remind me why again that people buy jarred pasta sauce?



The crispy chewy guanciale really makes the pasta. Also make sure you buy a good brand of tomatoes.



Many recipes out there use onions, but I think as simple as possible is the way to go with this.



Ok, on to the carbonara! The guanciale gets all weird and jello-looking when you first start cooking it.



Then it gets nice and crispy.



I wanted to keep the pasta nice and firm just like I had it in Rome. You can see that is looks a little underdone in this picture, which is perfect.



Pasta into the guanciale awesomeness.



The eggs get beaten really well with the cheese. I read that incorporating a little air into the egg mixture helps the final dish have a nice creamy texture.



Remove from heat and stir the eggs into the pasta.



A nice creamy sauce will form. Add some pasta cooking liquid as needed.



One bite and I was back in Rome with my family laughing and drinking lots of wine.




Bucatini Alla Amatriciana
1 pound bucatini
1/2 pound guanciale, chopped into large cubes
28oz can whole peeled tomatoes (crushed with your hands)
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup pecorino romano

Cook the guanciale in a splash of oil until well browned. Do not drain the oil. Add the tomatoes and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Drop the pasta into well salted boiling water and cook 6 or 7 minutes until it has just the slightest crunch left to it. Remove from the water and add straight to the sauce. Add a few ladles of the pasta cooking liquid along with the cheese. Stir well. Taste for seasoning (guanciale and the cheese will vary in saltiness so you might need to add more salt) Serve.

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
1 pound bucatini
1/2 pound guanciale, chopped into large cubes
3 egg yolks and 2 whole eggs
1/2 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1/2 cup pecorino romano

Cook the guanciale in a splash of oil until well browned. Do not drain the oil. Drop the pasta into well salted boiling water and cook 5 or 6 minutes until it has just the slightest crunch left to it. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, yolks, and cheese really well. Remove the pasta from the water and add straight to the guanciale (with all the fat). After stirring and cooking for 1 minute, remove from the heat and allow the pan to cool for 1 minute. Stir in the egg mixture, and stir well to let the eggs form a creamy sauce without scrambling. There will be some lumps, but it is mostly just the cheese. Add a few ladles of the pasta cooking liquid while stirring to form a nice creamy sauce. Stir well. Taste for seasoning (guanciale and the cheese will vary in saltiness so you might need to add more salt) Serve immediately!


3 Comments

Delicious. Thanks again.
I Love when you make and post simple meals like this.
More, please. :)

Your versions look even better than the dishes I had in Italy. The guanciale looks so crispy!! Hope you enjoyed the trip. Can't wait to hear about it!

Hope you had a great trip, and glad to have you back! These look amazing, I'll have to find some guanciale.

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