Monday, July 27, 2020

Bucatini All'Amatriciana

  As I was looking for yummy summer pasta recipes, I happened upon this recipe that I had seen on TV about a million years ago. Back in the day, before Chef Anne Burrell had her Worst Cooks in America thing going on, she used to have her own show, and honestly, it was great to just watch her cook. Wait... before I go any further.. am I the only one who misses those old TV cooking shows where we just watch a chef cook? You know, like Jacques Pepin and Sara Moulton and of course Miss Julia... they were always my favorites because I'd look at them and say "I bet I could make that too", ya know? My young self learned quite a bit from them, so I really do miss how informative those old shows used to be. As much as I love a competition cooking show, or whatever baking challenge we're up to, it's kind of not really the same.
ANYWAY.....Anne Burrell used to have a show called Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.. and on one particular episode, she made this pasta recipe. Of course, it looked so simple, I thought "yup.. definitely making that." And then I promptly forgot all about it. Until now. Aaaaaand we're back.
  I was just gonna make the recipe as I had seen it, but then I thought I'd compare several recipes, just for funsies, to see how different chefs have different variations. The first thing I read is that it's not really authentic to use any herbs in this sauce, or even garlic. I mean, I guess that makes sense. What is the point of coming up with a new tomato sauce recipe if you're just going to add all the same ingredients to it, right? So I knew right off the bat that I wasn't going to add any oregano or basil or garlic, as with your usual basic marinara. But still, many chefs do. Bobby Flay adds parsley and oregano and garlic and finishes his sauce with a couple pats of butter.. I read another recipe that adds fresh rosemary. I saw another version that included a big splash of white wine. Clearly this recipe was open to interpretation. So I looked for the things that seemed to be constant in all of them. The pasta was always bucatini, hence the name, and the sauce always had chopped chilis or crushed red pepper flakes for a spicy kick.
 But the most important thing, it seemed, was to include the star of the show... a specific cut of cured pork called guanciale. Annnnd now you might say "what's guanciale???"  Well, it's actually the cheeks or jowls of the pork. It has quite a lot of fat, and has a stronger porky almost gamey kind of flavor. It's treated like bacon, and it's quite luxurious! The problem is that it's not always the easiest thing to find. So, then I discovered that the next best thing is to use pancetta. Aaaaand now you might say "what's pancetta???" Well, it's similar to guanciale, also a cured cut of pork, but it comes from the belly of the animal instead of the jowls. Think of it as bacon that is cured but not smoked. It's a little expensive, but you only need 8 oz and it's SO worth it. If nothing else, you can just use regular bacon! (actually, that's what Bobby Flay uses in his recipe). It'll add a little smokiness, but that's not really a bad thing here. Anyway, after all that, I decided to just go back and use Anne Burrell's recipe. It's simple, it's straight forward. And I love that she gives the recipe like she's talking to you, especially when she talks about the marriage between the pasta and sauce. LOL It's kinda like many people tell me about this blog. They say "I can hear you talking!" which always cracks me up.
 So there we have it. You absolutely MUST add this recipe to your recipe repertoire. It's SO amazingly delicious, only takes a few ingredients, and is simple enough that anyone can make it. I'd say it's even good enough for when you want to impress someone! It took me forever to finally get around to making it, but it was certainly worth the wait!

Extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces guanciale, cut in 1/4-inch strips
2 large onions, cut in 1/2-inch dice
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
2 (28-ounce) cans San Marzano tomatoes, passed through the food mill
1 pound bucatini or perciatelli
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon minced chives, for garnish, optional

Coat a large saucepan with olive oil. Add the guanciale and saute over low heat. Cook until it is brown and crispy and has rendered a lot of fat. Remove and reserve 1/3 of the guanciale for garnish. Bring the pan to a medium heat and add the onions and crushed red pepper. Season generously with salt, to taste. Cook the onions until they are translucent, starting to turn golden and are very aromatic. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the sauce for about 1 hour, tasting periodically. Adjust the salt, as needed.
Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for 1 minute less than the instructions on the package. Remove 3 or 4 ladlefuls of the sauce from the pot to a bowl, as an insurance policy. You can always add it back in but it's harder to take out once the pasta is in the pan. You're looking for the perfect ratio between pasta and sauce. Drain the pasta from the water and add to the pot of sauce. Stir to coat with the sauce. This is how you always finish pasta; you cook it in the sauce to perform the marriage of the pasta and the sauce. Add more sauce, if necessary. Add in the cheese and drizzle with olive oil to really bring the marriage together. Toss to coat and serve in shallow bowls garnished with cheese and the reserved guanciale. Sprinkle with chives to finish, if using. YUUUMMMEEEEE!

When the recipe says "season generously with salt, to taste", I kind of held back a little because I knew the pancetta would be very salty. Maybe the guanciale isn't as salty as pancetta, but it's something to keep an eye on. Yes, I used pancetta instead of guanciale. Who even knows where to buy guanciale??? Also I used more than 8oz. Why? because pancetta is just so GOOD!
Since I only like a little spice, I only used a half tsp of crushed red pepper flakes, which gives it a nice slow burn. But if you like the heat, go for the full teaspoon. Or more! You could even add a fresh pinch right at serving.
I like it a little chunky, so instead of passing my canned tomatoes through a food mill, I just emptied the cans into a large bowl and then squished them with my impeccably clean hands.

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