At the dinner table, I was telling Victor I didn’t know how I was going to write this post without sounding like I was gloating.

Sorry.  I’m gloating.  This was one fine dish!

It has a simplicity of ingredients and a complexity of flavor that works on every level.

For years we’ve listened to Lidia Bastianich talk about letting a few simple ingredients be the show and not covering them up with a hundred conflicting flavors.

Now, don’t get me wrong…  I love my hundred conflicting flavors, too – curries and different spice blends are out of this world.  But there’s something about bringing just a few ingredients together and getting huge flavor from them that is truly magical.

Another thing I notice more and more as I get older is how the shape of the pasta affects the dish.  As a kid growing up, we had spaghetti, vermicelli, elbow macaroni, and lasagne noodles.  That was it.  It took me going to work in Italian restaurants to learn what mostaccioli and rigatoni were.  I didn’t have ziti until I moved to the east coast!  It amazed me that there would be a dozen different sizes and shapes of pasta on the shelf at the grocery store.  It’s taken me a while but I now understand why.

Fast-forward to tonight’s dinner, and, while I think the sauce would be downright excellent with any pasta, the bucatini really does make it the perfect dish.

Bucatini all’amatriciana

  • 1 ½ lbs tomatoes
  • 5 oz guanciale
  • 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 – 2 garlic cloves, gently smashed and peeled
  • 1 medium onion thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp (or more to taste) crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • Sea Salt
  • 1 lb bucatini
  • 2/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Fresh ground Pepper

Before I give you the directions, let me say a couple things – Guanciale is pig jowls or actually the cheeks of the pig and it is very hard to find. You need to go to a good Italian butcher, however you may substitute pancetta. Second, I used fresh tomatoes from our garden which required me to do step one below and peel, seed and dice. Its labor intensive but worth it. You can certainly use canned tomatoes; just make sure you get good ones.


Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add tomatoes and cook for 30 seconds, then drain. Peel the tomatoes, cut into quarters (seed if you want to) and set aside.

Cut the guanciale into matchsticks.

In a large saucepan, combine guanciale, oil and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic begins to turn golden, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic from the pot. (If it burns it gets bitter)

Add sliced onion and red pepper flakes to pot and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the onion is softened, about 6 minutes. Add the wine and increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the wine has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, reduce heat to low and gently simmer, covered, until sauce is rich and flavorful, about 40-50 minutes. Remove from heat.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add bucatini and cook until al dente. Meanwhile gently reheat sauce. When the pasta is al dente, drain, transfer to a large bowl, add sauce and toss to combine. Serve immediately with grated cheese and fresh ground pepper.

Victor also roasted some garlic and mixed it with a few of the fried peppers.  It went really good atop buttered slices of homemade bread.

And what will next Monday bring?!?