bucatini all’amatriciana: luciano’s way

Amatriciana is sacred in our house. It is my daughter Sophie’s favorite food group. If she could eat Amatriciana three times a day she would. I always have a whole guanciale in the fridge. Just in case. You just never know when you are going to need to whip up an emergency batch of Amatrciana. Or Carbonara. Or Gricia.

But getting back to Amatriciana. As you can imagine we’ve mastered the fine art of making it here at Casa Minchilli. I posted the classic recipe here, which is the one I use all the time. And my friend Ari weighed in on guanciale and Gricia here.

Last Saturday we had a guest chef for lunch. Well, he’s not really a chef. He’s actually an upholsterer. Luciano Luciani, along with his brother Renzo, work down the street from us, and in recent years have recovered just about everything in our house here in Rome and in Todi, as well as most of Domenico’s clients’ jobs. They are expert upholsterers.

They are also very good eaters. But one thing I never knew before Saturday, is that Luciano is also a very good cook. He knew about Sophie’s obsession with Amatriciana and wanted to come to our house to feed her before she went back to no-Amatriciana Land (London).

Last Saturday he arrived with the sauce already made, and ready to go. While my recipe is the classic, Luciano’s differs in some very important ways. First of all, he uses both onions and garlic (very controversial). And – surprise! – uses red wine and a touch of sugar. He also prefers pancetta over guanciale. “Less fatty” he says.

Luciano is also very strict about timing and serving. The sauce is best made the day before, he says, to allow time for the flavors to blend.

Regarding serving, he insists on the following procedure: Place some sauce in the bottom of each dish, top with pasta, then spoon more sauce over the top. Sprinkle with grated cheese, and serve. Let each guest mix up their own dish. “If you just mix up a big bowl of pasta and sauce, all the sauce ends up at the bottom of the serving dish. This way, everyone gets lots of sauce. Also, Amatriciana should be swimming in sauce. There should be lots of it with every bite.”

He was right. The sauce was rich, meaty and – thankfully – very abundant. “Amatriciana Luciano” is now the new Minchilli standard. (except I’m sticking to guanciale. Sorry Luciano.)

Luciano’s Bucatini all’Amatriciana

1 liter of crushed tomatoes

250 grams of pancetta
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup red wine
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
grated pecorino romano
1 pound bucatini

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add pancetta and let cook until it starts to brown. Add onions and garlic and continue to cook until they are softened (but not brown) about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add a 1/4 cup of red wine, and simmer for several minutes. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt and half cup of water. Let simmer, over low heat, covered, for about a half hour to 40 minutes. Taste for salt. Let the sauce rest in the fridge over night if possible.

Reheat sauce in pot.

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Boil pasta until done, and drain.

Place about four tablespoons of sauce in each person’s plate. Top with a serving of pasta. Place another 2 tablespoon of sauce on top of the pasta and top with grated pecorino romano cheese.

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