Rigatoni All’Amatriciana is one of my go-to favorites when I want a relatively quick and satisfying Italian dinner. In Italy, this dish came to the table in various pasta forms including rigatoni, spaghetti and penne. It’s all delicious.
A word about tomatoes: there is nothing like the tomatoes grown in the Naples area around Mount Vesuvius. They are simply the very best for making a pasta sauce because the flavor and texture is already delicious right out of the can. All that needs to be done is to crush them by hand in a big bowl along with the juices (absolutely do not drain). San Marzano tomatoes are the cream of the crop, but other tomatoes grown nearby in the Campania region are also excellent. San Marzano “style” tomatoes are grown in the U. S. or other countries and are passable if the Italian ones are not available (or too expensive), but the flavor and texture is just not as good.
For the meat, either guanciale or pancetta can be used; however, pancetta is usually easier to find in the U. S. markets. Try to get the pancetta in one ½ pound hunk at the deli counter, since the pre-sliced meat in the packages is already cut very thin and does not always have the best flavor. If pre-sliced pancetta is all that’s available, it will do just fine in a pinch but it will cook faster during the frying stage and lack the standard texture usually found in this dish. Bacon can be used as a substitute, but just be aware the whole thing will taste like smoky bacon (not always a bad thing).
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 8 oz. pancetta or guanciale, cut into ½ inch pieces
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- ½ teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
- 1 small to medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
- 1 - 28 oz. can San Marzano or San Marzano style tomatoes, undrained and crushed by hand
- 1 lb. rigatoni
- ¼ cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for the table
- Heat oil in a large deep sided skillet (or 5 qt. dutch oven) over medium heat. Sauté the meat until crisp and golden.
- Drain off the fat from the skillet, leaving two tablespoons of the oil.
- Add the pepper flakes and black pepper and stir for a few seconds.
- Add the onions and garlic to the skillet and cook, stirring often until soft -- about 8 - 10 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and their juices to the skillet, reduce the heat and bring to a low simmer, stirring occasionally, and let cook for 15 - 20 minutes. Cover with a lid if a thinner sauce is desired; leave uncovered if a thicker sauce is desired.
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions to get it done at the same time the sauce will be done. If the sauce has to be turned off to wait for the pasta, all will be just fine. Just make sure the sauce is hot when it goes on the pasta.
- When the sauce is done, take it off the heat and stir in the ¼ cup of cheese.
- Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta when it is al dente.
- Add the drained pasta to the skillet with the sauce and toss until everything is well coated. Add a little of the reserved pasta water if it is too dry.
- Serve immediately.
Here’s a history of this recipe’s origins in Amatrice, Italy.
Rigatoni All’Amatriciana Recipe Food Prep Gallery