I’m not one to throw some red sauce on a pasta and call it an achievement. I usually see people doing that to a pasta and writing about, taking a picture of it, or charging $16 for it, and think “really, that’s it?” Maybe I’m not a pasta purist – although I had no problem living off of spaghetti pomodoro for a month in Italy. But outside of the Old World, where all tomato sauce usually starts in a jar, it leaves something to be desired.
Let me tell you right now, that’s not what this is. To start, it comes from whole canned San Marzano tomatoes, so friends and neighbors, put your Bay Area tomato snobbery minds at ease. Second, this is Spaghetti All’Amatriciana, which means it’s really about slow cooked onions and pancetta. I had this in Rome and it’s never left my consciousness since. Lots of salty deep flavor from the pork, not to mention a hefty, hefty dose of red pepper, makes this surprising in addition to being no-brainer delicious.
I got this recipe out of some sort of Bachelors cookbook made by Esquire, which is easy enough as it is…then cut the time by about half. I found it long enough to develop those deep flavors, but I’m sure going the whole way with it is even more awesome. I also used regular bacon out of necessity (really Whole Foods? If you can’t find a market for pancetta in San Francisco, where can you?). I thought it would be a bigger deal than it was, but nice thick-cut smoky bacon does work quite well. The recipe actually calls for guanciale, but unless you’re a bachelor trying to impress someone you probably don’t have to worry about pulling out all the stops.
Spaghetti All’Amatriciana – Bachelor’s Style
6 0z pancetta or good bacon
1 large onion
2 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
two 28 oz cans of San Marzano tomato puree (or buy whole tamatoes and chop or puree)
1 lb spaghetti
Heat a skim of oil (about 2 tbsp) in a large pot over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until the fat begins to render and meat is no longer pink, about three minutes.
Add onion and stir, coating onions with the rendered fat. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden, about ten minutes.
Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is aromatic, about ten minutes more.
Add the tomato puree, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and gently simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, until it reduces and thickens slightly, the flavors blend, and the fat floats to the surface, about 40 minutes (or as long as you can stand it before it just looks too good and you’re just too hungry).
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain but don’t rinse, return spaghetti to hot pot, and toss with the sauce.