As I’ve said many times in my blog, Italian cuisine is about the local. Italy only became a unified country in 1868 (some would argue that it is still not unified – a big north-south problem, political parties that espouse splitting off on their own, and the oft-repeated joke that folks from Sicily are from another country altogether)! Before that, Italy comprised city-states, often walled-in towns and cities that fought each other over the centuries. This meant that the food you ate came from very near-by.
I know I told you the story of Marco’s parents questioning why we once went to dinner across the river Po to Piacenza to eat when it was much better to eat Cremonese food. Every 30 kilometers there is a style of cooking, local wines, and a dialect that is unique to that particular zone. The further away one gets from ones home town and it is not possible to understand the dialect from the region. Marco cannot understand the dialect of Venezia (only 2 1/2 hours away). Remember, I’m not talking about different accents. . . but a whole new language.
So, we have spaghetti all’amaticiana. The best hypothesis is that this sauce comes from the town of Amatrice which is one hour east of Rome. It has since become a favorite Roman dish and a popular one in all of Italy. It originated in Amatrice with a base of guanciale, tomatoes, and pecorino cheese.
Amatrice in Italian means “she who loves” so this is another occasion to note how much Italians love to eat! It is not uncommon for Italians to discus what to cook for the next meal while eating the current one. In addition, one of the first questions an Italian will ask a friend who has just come back from a traveling vacation is “how was the food?” Good food is an important part of daily life and it is the center piece for gathering family and friends around a common table.
I looked at several recipes online and this one from “Blogging over Thyme” (click here) was my favorite but I ended up doing my version.
First, I sautéed the pancetta in olive oil for a few minutes.
I took the pancetta out and set aside to sauté the onions. Once they were beginning to get soft, I added the garlic and red pepper flakes and cooked a little more, browning the garlic, but not letting it burn.
I added the pancetta back in.
Then, I put the tomatoes in and simmered while the pasta cooks.
Ingredients (Serves 4):
- 2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 4 ounce package of Citterio cubed pancetta (I find at Trader Joe’s) (or simple use any pancetta cut up into cubes)
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pinches red pepper flakes (QB, Quanto Basta, “to taste”)
- About 2-3 cups of diced tomatoes (I had some canned ones on hand and also had some cherry tomatoes that I diced)
- grated pecorino cheese
- 10 ounces Spaghetti
- the pasta water can be heating and you can cook the pasta while making the sauce (don’t forget the generous amount of coarse sea salt in the water- see past blog)
- sautee the pancetta in heated olive oil 3-4 minutes or to desired crispness
- with a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and set aside
- sauté the onion till it begins to get soft
- add the garlic and red pepper flakes and brown the garlic
- add the pancetta back in
- then, add the tomatoes and simmer till the pasta is ready
- scoop the pasta out of the water and into the sauce and combine well
- sprinkle grated pecorino (parmesan will do if you don’t have pecorino)