mains that noodle life

Secret Ingredient Pasta all’Amatriciana Recipe

Steph demands to cook pretty much all the time and is pretty damn good at it too, so the rare times when she is too sick or too lazy to cook are wonderful for me, because otherwise I’d never clock any time in the kitchen at all. I made this Amatriciana sauce way back last Christmas when we made a giant ham that we couldn’t finish and had leftover meat for days. Christmas time means many things, but mostly it means seeing a lot of friends and family in a very short amount of time, and without fail that means that Steph will get very, very sick around Christmas every year. So with Steph tucked into bed early with a hot bowl of instant chicken noodle soup and saltine crackers - her favorite - I was left to my own devices for dinner and spent the evening doing my favorite: cooking with leftovers. Leftovers, for me at least, really encourage you to push the boundaries of creativity in the kitchen. Over the week that Steph was sick, I found a ton of uses for our leftover Christmas ham, and this Amatriciana was the best of the bunch. Sugo all'Amatriciana is basically the national sauce of Italy (and Rome in particular), so I’m sure an Italian person would say I bastardized this version, because it’s true, I did. But it was phenomenally bastardized. Classically, Amatriciana sauce is guanciale, rendered fat from the guanciale, tomato sauce, and pecorino cheese. The fatty part of the (very high quality) leftover Christmas ham did a great job replacing guanciale. I also changed out the tomato sauce and used parmigiano reggiano instead of pecorino. So basically, I followed the formula but changed every ingredient. The secret ingredient though was quickly making an Egyptian tomato sauce. Steph made one for her Kosheri awhile back that I fell in love with. It contained a touch of vinegar and sugar and aleppo spice that I felt brightened up the Amatriciana considerably and added a ton of complex flavor notes. It smelled and sounded so good Steph even pushed herself out of bed to have a taste (though really, she couldn’t taste anything at the time). Making the sauce is optional, just use your favorite one, but the Egyptian tomato sauce was a welcome change from our standard San Marzano. It’s a little bit of extra effort that I felt was well worth the time.

Secret Ingredient Pasta all’Amatriciana Recipe Serves 2
  • 1 cup Egyptian tomato sauce (see below)
  • 1/2 cup guanciale or pancetta, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 200g pasta
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino or parmigiano reggiano
  • 1 tbsp chili flakes (optional)

Egyptian Tomato Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon crushed aleppo peppers
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes (28 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • freshly ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
Set a large pot of salted water on high heat for the pasta. In a sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, aleppo and sugar. Cook, stirring until aromatic (1-2 minutes). Add the tomatoes and vinegar and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and season with freshly ground nutmeg, salt and pepper. In a large skillet, cook the guanciale or pancetta over medium heat until crispy and fat renders out, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute, then add 1 cup of the tomato sauce made in the previous step. Stir well and reduce heat to low, simmer. Cook the pasta according to package time minus 3 minutes. Reserve a cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta (don't rinse) and transfer to the skillet. Finish cooking pasta in the sauce, stirring gently for 3 minutes, adding pasta water if needed. Add cheese and mix until incorporated. Using tongs, transfer to plate and shave some extra cheese on top.

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