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  • Writer's pictureErmanno Lelli

Cracking The Classic Bucatini all'Amatriciana Recipe Secret

Regional cuisines are often a source of debate among Italians, whether they are professional chefs or home cooks. Spaghetti/bucatini/Rigatoni all'Amatriciana is no exception! Usually, the first-time preparation requires choosing between spaghetti or bucatini pasta, pancetta or guanciale, and garlic or onion.

How about giving this quick, delicious and simple Amatriciana recipe a try?

Just like many other famous classic Italian pasta recipes, this pasta dish "bucatini all'amatriciana" stands the test of time. The spiciness of this classic sauce comes from dried chili flakes and black pepper, while the depth of flavor emanates from guanciale (Italian salt-cured pork cheek). When you're unable to find it, substitute it with pancetta, which you can easily get from any supermarket.

Etymology “Amatriciana”

Sugo all'amatriciana (Italian pronunciation) or alla matriciana (in Romanesco dialect), sometimes referred to as salsa all'amatriciana, is a traditional Italian pasta sauce made with guanciale (cured pork cheeks), pecorino Romano cheese, tomato, and, in certain varieties, onion or garlic.

Amatriciana, one of the best-known pasta sauces in modern Italian and Roman cuisine, originated in Amatrice (the town in the Rieti province of Lazio region). It has been recognized as a traditional agro-alimentary item of Lazio by the Italian government.

The Development History of Amatriciana

Pasta alla gricia is the origin of Amatriciana. Grici were advanced Roman vendors of bread and other goods. Some say the name comes from Grisciano, in the commune of Accumoli, which is near Amatrice. The sauce—named Amatriciana Bianca—is made with guanciale, grated pecorino Romano, and olive oil. This was how traditional Amatriciana sauce was made in Amatrice until the 1960s.

The tomato sauce (eventually used in Amatriciana) initially came into being around the late 18th century, when a Roman chef Francesco Leonardi mentioned for the first time Pasta with tomato sauce in his cookbook named “L’Apicio Moderno" in 1790.

As Rome and Amatrice were longtime neighbors, the Amatriciana recipe grew well-known throughout the 19th & early 20th centuries. People loved the recipe, and it went on to be a traditional Roman dish, although it originated elsewhere. This dish's name ultimately changed to matriciana due to the Romanesco-specific apheresis characteristics.

In central Italy, gricia without tomatoes is still prepared. However, tomato-enriched Amatriciana is more widely known. In Amatrice, the meal is served with spaghetti, although in Rome, bucatini is widely used. Any other dry pasta is also used, like rigatoni; however, fresh pasta is usually avoided.

Fresh pasta is to avoid.

Classic Bucatini all'Amatriciana Recipe

Amatriciana sauce, made in the traditional way, is hotly debatable. However, this version combines delicate spiciness, bucatini, pecorino Romano cheese, a tasty tomato sauce from "piennolo" tomatoes, and guanciale that balances each other.


  • 1 lb. (450 g) bucatini/spaghetti pasta (or any other dried pasta)

  • Salt

  • 1 tbsp. (15ml) extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • ¼ cup (60ml) white wine

  • 8 ounces (225 g) Guanciale, cut into uniform slices

  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes

  • 28-oz.(800 g) Napoletana piennolo cherry tomatoes

  • ½ tsp. or to taste black pepper, freshly ground

  • 3/4 ounce (21 g) grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus some for serving

Step by step Directions

  1. To begin, heat olive oil in a wok or sauté pan over medium heat. You can golden brown onion if you like, although this is not required. Next, add the guanciale (or pancetta, if using) and chili flakes and sauté the pork until it is slightly browned and crisped.

  2. Add white wine and cook. White wine halts the browning process and deglazes the pan's browned bits; I cook it down until almost all of the liquid has evaporated.

  3. Once those ingredients are added, I add crushed entire piennolo tomatoes, as well as their juices. I enjoy the chewiness of the hand-crushed tomato remnants, but if you like a smooth sauce, you may choose to purée the tomatoes with a blender—season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

  4. Let the sauce simmer slightly. In the meantime, boil the pasta in salted water. Bucatini is my first choice for making traditional pasta with a hole in the center of each noodle. Spaghetti or Rigatoni can be used as a substitute. Transfer the pasta to the sauce when it is almost but not quite al dente (approximately 1 minute less than the package directions) and add 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the sauce. The pasta water contains starch, which emulsifies and binds the sauce.

  5. Following the normal pasta-saucing process, gently simmer the pasta in the sauce on high heat. Stirring rapidly while the pasta is cooking. Continue to cook until the sauce is thickened and coats the noodles.

  6. When it's cooked, Turn off the stove. add freshly ground black pepper, grated Pecorino Romano cheese to taste, and quickly stir to incorporate.

  7. Season with some pepper if you want. Sprinkle some more cheese on the top, and it is ready to serve.

Enjoy Amatriciana! It's delicious.

Cook’s Notes

  • If you don’t like to incorporate white wine, you can skip the 2nd step.

  • Though guanciale-cured pork jowl imparts the most excellent texture to the sauce, you may substitute good pancetta tesa or smoked.

  • You can use fewer chili flakes to make this dish less spicy if you like.

  • Bucatini is a thick, hollow spaghetti; regular spaghetti or even penne can be used.

  • Spaghetti Amatriciana can be stored for up to one day in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It is not suggested to freeze it.

  • If you're a fan of authentic Amatriciana, once tasting our version, experiment with other versions, such as using garlic instead of onion or simmering with water rather than wine, and then pick your favorite!

  • PIENNOLO TOMATOES are a special variety of tomatoes growing on mount Vesuvius, famous for their unique taste and sweetness.

Nutrition Information

Serving. 1 (Approximately)

Calories: 3020, Total Fat: 99.2g, Saturated Fat: 29g, Cholesterol: 209 mg, Sodium: 5884mg, Carbohydrates: 384.9g, Dietary Fiber: 25.6g, Sugar: 32.6g, Protein: 135.3g, Calcium 411mg, Iron 8mg, Potassium 1171mg.

Order our Classic Italian Penne Amatriciana online from casa pasta by Ermanno Lelli.

Interesting Tidbit

Following the devastating earthquake that destroyed Amatrice, as well as nearby villages and towns, in Aug. 2016, several people around the world expressed their support, including restaurants that contributed to reconstruction fundraising by donating funds for every dish of Amatriciana ordered, transforming this recipe into a sign not only of a country but also of a whole struggling population.


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