PENNE ALL’AMATRICIANA (named after Amatrice, a small town near Rome, for four)
This is one of several Roman riffs on pasta with bacon; plain pasta with bacon is alla Gricia, add eggs and you have carbonbara, and the addition of tomatoes makes it all’Amatriciana. In Italy, Amatriciana is traditionally served with the long, thick strands of pasta known as bucatini.
½ pound guanciale, or pancetta, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced lengthwise
1 red onion, halved and sliced ¼ inch thick
1 scant teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
kosher salt and freshly black pepper to taste
3 cups Mario’s marinara, or of the canned tomato sauce of your choice
1 pound penne
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
Pecorino Romano for grating
1. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt.
2. Place the guanciale slices in a 12 to 14 inch saute pan in a single layer and cook over medium-low heat until most of the fat has been rendered from the meat, about 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove the meat to a plate lined with paper towels and discard half the fat, leaving enough to coat the garlic, onion and red pepper flakes. (Pancetta may render less fat than guanciale or American bacon. If there is only a small amount of fat in your skillet after 10 minutes of rendering, skip draining the meat and just add the vegetables directly to the skillet.) Return the guanciale to the pan with the vegetables, and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, or until the onions, garlic and guanciale are light golden brown. Season with salt (go easy on the salt – the meat is already very salty) and pepper, add the marinara (or the tomato sauce), reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Cook the penne in boiling, salted water until al dente (11 to 12 minutes after the water returns to a boil for Barilla – if you use another brand, time according to package instructions). Drain the pasta and add it to the simmering sauce. Add the parsley leaves, increase the heat to high and toss to coat. Top with freshly grated Pecorino and serve immediately.
adapted from Mario Batali, Babbo Ristorante archives, New York City