How to eat Bucatini
I've cooked many times pasta with amatriciana sauce at home but only after eating this great classic in an Italian restaurant I finely learned how to leave the table without food stains on my clothes.
Something like 5 years ago, I visited Rome for a weekend. One day, an Italian friend took me for lunch in a local trattoria.
The name of the trattoria was ‘Il Bucatino’ and that made me decide even easier which typical Roman pasta to eat. Both I and my friend ordered Bucatini all’Amatriciana.
After a while, the waiter was heading towards us carrying the food. From distance, I couldn’t see the pasta because it was hidden inside a large bowl. I could only recognise the back end of a spoon protruding out from the bowl. It was only when the dish arrived on the table that I could see the pasta fully dressed in plenty of the rich in tomato amatriciana sauce. Extra cheese was grated on the top.
For a moment, I felt slightly surprised having pasta served in a bowl that could fit more for a salad. Soon after, I noticed my friend, before starting to eat, to cover his body with a big napkin, placing it between his neck and shirt. Then, using spoon and fork, he spent at least a minute mixing very well the contents of the bowl.
All these small details brought a smile to my face. I had just realised why I was always getting dirty when eating bucatini amatriciana at home!
Bucatini pasta, especially when combined with the amatriciana sauce tends to leave behind sauce stains, on the plate surroundings plus on the clothes. This is mainly because of the pasta structure. Bucatini are long but also relatively thick pasta tubes, they bend less before breaking compared with spaghetti for instance, and hence they don’t completely curl around the fork. It’s thus inevitable to have sauce clusters flying over while trying to swirl the bucatini strands around the fork and transfer them into the mouth. Things can get worse when bucatini are combined with a full-body sauce, and amatriciana is one of those!
So, in my current situation everything made sense. The bowl walls provide the first line of defence by keeping inside some of the sauce splashes, while the napkin prevents the rest from staining the clothes, at least the ones covering the body and the legs because there is still some room for red marks on the sleeves!
This famous and beloved Italian pasta sauce took its name from Amatrice, a town in the mountainous, north-eastern part of the Lazio region. As a simple recipe contains the typical local products of the area, mostly of animal origin. These are cured pork cheek (guanciale) and a hard, salty, sheep’s milk cheese (pecorino romano).
Initially, the amatriciana was white, cooked only with the aforementioned ingredients, a sauce variation that today is known as ‘gricia’. After tomatoes arrived in Italy, the sauce turned red, taking the form and name that we know nowadays.
The sauce typically is combined with the long pasta shapes of spaghetti or bucatini, as wells as with short ones like rigatoni.
Like with other typical Roman pasta dishes based on the same ingredients (carbonara, cacio e pepe), there are always the same disputes on whether amatriciana can include additional ingredients (onions, garlic) or other forms of cured meat (pancetta) and cheese other than pecorini romano. Even if the deliciousness of the original recipe stands for itself, everyone has the right to adjust things to his/her liking, keeping in mind though that the adjusted sauce might not deserve anymore to be called amatriciana!!
For two portions
150g cured guanciale**
80g pecorino romano cheese***
a can of tomato juice
an espresso cup white wine
a few chili flakes
* Amatriciana is served also with spaghetti, as well as with short pasta, like rigatoni
** Guanciale (cured pig cheek) is not easy to find and many people prefer to use cured pancetta instead
*** Traditionally, in amatriciana but also in all Roman pasta dishes the local cheese that is used is the very particular in terms of saltiness/aggressiveness pecorino romano - if not available, a salty, hard sheep’s milk cheese can be used instead – here, I used a kefalotyri cheese from my region in Greece
- Place the guanciale cut into short stripes into a cold pan. Increase heat to medium and let it release its fat while it becomes translucent. Cook it for ca. 5-7’ in total until it turns crispy outside but stays tender inside. The pan should contain at this point a good amount of liquid fat.
- Add a splash of white wine, the tomato juice, and a few chili flakes if you like a bit of spiciness. Taste and if needed add a bit of extra salt.
- Let the sauce simmer for the same time that pasta is cooking in well-salted boiling water.
- Transfer the pasta cooked al-dente into the pan and start mixing it into the sauce.
- Turn off the fire, add the grated cheese and mix very well still in the pan.
- Serve, grate some extra cheese on top, and enjoy!!!