This is one of the most popular of the Roman pasta dishes. The Romans and me! I had it for lunch one day at Ristorante Maccheroni in Rome where they used rigatoni. My preference is spaghetti. Romans also like to use bucatini for their La Matriciana. You decide! The crucial element is the guanciale (cured pork jowl). You can find it at Italian shops or Italian butchers. It keeps really well and you will find many other uses for it, so don’t be too worried if it’s a larger piece than you might want. I often substitute guanciale for pancetta. It’s surprising how just a few good ingredients can make such a delicious sauce.
Makes 3 – 4 Servings
4 oz. guanciale or pancetta, trimmed as necessary, cut into 1/8” cubes
3 Tbsp. EVOO
1 fresh red chili (2”) long, seeds removed and very thinly sliced, or ¼ tsp. Peperoncino (red chili flakes)
2/3 cup dry white wine
13 oz. tinned Italian plum tomatoes
12 oz. spaghetti
Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In the meantime, place the tomatoes into a medium sized bowl and crush them, using your impeccably clean hands (as Julia Child would say). Heat the EVO in a large skillet; add the guanciale and chili. As soon as the guanciale starts to get a bit golden, pour in the wine and allow it to evaporate. Now pour in the tomatoes and allow to simmer until the sauce has reduced. Season to taste with salt.
Add 1 Tbsp. salt to the pot of water them the spaghetti. Cook until al dente, stirring occasionally. Remove 1 cup of pasta cooking water and put aside; drain the pasta in a colander and add to the hot sauce. Stir and toss for about 1 minute, adding a bit of pasta cooking water if the pasta appears to be a bit dry, place in a heated pasta bowl, serve immediately.