SO DAMN GOOD. And pretty cheap.

Spaghetti All'Amatriciana
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
This recipe is remarkably simple yet extremely yummy. Get Bucatini pasta if you can, since that is what traditionally is used with this sauce. Don't add more than a pinch or two of salt until the end, because the pancetta you use might be very salty. Half a pound of meat was meaty enough for us, but feel free to go up to ¾ pound if desired. If you don't want to or don't have time to make the Basic Tomato Sauce, substitute one 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, but the flavor will suffer. Based on this recipe:
  • BASIC TOMATO SAUCE --------------------------------
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups Spanish Onion, chopped in ¼-inch dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1.5 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or ½ tablespoon dried
  • ½ medium carrot, grated
  • 1 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • AMATRICIANA SAUCE ----------------------------------
  • ¾ pound guanciale, or pancetta, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups red onion, halved, thinly sliced root to tip
  • 1 ½ teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 recipe Basic Tomato Sauce, ingredients above
  • 1 pound bucatini or spaghetti
  • Fresh Italian parsley or basil to taste
  • Pecorino Romano
  1. For the basic tomato sauce, heat oil in saucepan, add onions and garlic, cook until golden brown (8-10 minutes). Add carrot and thyme, cook 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, bring to boil and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Set aside.
  2. For Amatriciana sauce, heat a thin layer of oil in large saute pan over medium high heat and cook the meat until some fat is rendered. If there is a lot of fat, pour some off, leaving enough to coat onions and garlic.
  3. Add the onions, garlic, red pepper flakes to the meat, continue to cook over medium heat until everything is golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the Basic Tomato Sauce prepared before, or if you chose not to make it, add one 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes. Simmer 30 minutes.
  5. Add parsley or basil at the last 5 minutes of cooking, or just as garnish if you prefer. Or both.
  6. Season with salt and pepper, boil the pasta and serve everything with grated cheese.


Amatriciana and Bolognese are tied for Best Pasta Sauce in my book, but there’s just something about the bold, punchy flavor of Amatriciana that is irresistible. We recently had Bucatini All’Amatriciana in Rome. I never really understood the point of bucatini’s existence before, it’s just spaghetti with a hole in it. But I have to admit that with this sauce, it seems to make a difference, and I like it more than spaghetti now. Too bad I can’t get it anywhere in Madison. Ah well, the sauce is just as good with other pastas.

When I first saw this recipe here:, I thought that having 3/4 pound of meat and 1.5 cups of tomato sauce was just ridiculous. I still do. The above recipe has 1/2 pound of meat and 3.5 cups of tomato sauce, and I honestly don’t think more meat would improve matters. Since I can’t get guanciale, I always use pancetta, and any more pancetta would make the sauce horribly salty. I like to cut my slices of pancetta into pieces 1 inch square, make the sauce feel meatier.

For the record, this recipe blows away the one I ate in Rome.