Seriously, keep this simple and take your time. I’ve seen so many recipes for this sauce online that overcomplicate it. What makes Amatriciana sauce so delicious is its simplicity–don’t cover up the taste of the guanciale and cheese with garlic, onions, basil, or parsley. Splurge on quality meat, cheese and tomatoes and forget the rest. This it the perfect sauce to let slowly simmer on the stove as you’re working on some fresh pasta.
1/4 pound diced guanciale* (cured pork cheek)
28 oz canned tomatoes (I use Cento’s San Marzano peeled whole tomatoes)
Red pepper flakes (to taste)
Shredded pecorino cheese
Slowly cook the diced guanciale (or pancetta or bacon) in olive oil in a large skillet. Take your time and let the fat render, giving it a stir every now and then. As the meat is on the stove, crush or puree the tomatoes. Personally, I like to just break them up with my hands. Once your meat has crisped up, take out half of it to save for later. Add the tomatoes and red pepper flakes to the skillet with the remaining guanciale and let the sauce simmer, at least 20 to 30 minutes, until much of the liquid has cooked off and you have a thick sauce with a rich flavor. Mix the shredded pecorino cheese with your warm pasta and a bit of warm pasta water. Traditionally, you would then mix the pasta with the sauce, but I prefer to serve it over my pasta–topped with more cheese and the reserved guanciale.
* If you don’t have easy access to guanciale (which is likely), go ahead and dice up some pancetta or even a thick-cut bacon. I’ve used them all and they all will work (I used bacon the day I took the photos for this post), but don’t give you the exact flavor you’re looking for. This sauce really takes on the flavor of the meat, and you’ll get the right taste with the guanciale. It’s worth the splurge every now and then.