Saturday, February 4, 2012

Which Came First The Pasta Or The Sauce? How to Make Pasta A'matriciana

   The minute I heard about guanciale (cured hog jowl, aka Roman bacon) I knew I was destined to make it. Maybe it was all the Charcutrepalooza madness of last year, but it seemed that everyone I know was making, cotta, or duck prosciutto or some other sort of fascinating cured meat. I knew that the way we eat normally didn't really call for a lot of cured meats as I mainly cook Indian vegetarian food, but I couldn't resist the challenge.

   I decided to make guanciale, mainly because I wanted to try something unusual and something that could be used easily in a sauce. I learned that there are two sauces that were made for guanciale. One is Carbonara. The other is A'matriciana. Carbonara with it's bacon and eggs and cheese always reminds me of breakfast in a bowl (not that there's anything wrong with that) but I wanted something that would have a definite dinner vibe. I decided I'd take my guanciale and turn it into Pasta A'matriciana.

   Of course, when I did my guanciale research, the one thing I learned for sure was that everything goes better with fresh pasta, especially guanciale. So right then and there the big pasta machine search began. I had a lot of time to hunt since making one's own guanciale takes at least 6 weeks. In fact, making one's own guanciale is sort of like ordering a wedding gown, only fattier, and with glands.

   The hog jowl needs to be ordered (takes about a week) cleaned up and cured (1 week) Then comes the part when the gown guanciale is fitted  altered and assembled air dried.Of course back in the day when I got married, I went to the store and bought a dress. Simple. Over and out. The guanciale was a bit more complicated, but finally it was done and ready to be used. I had my pasta machine by then but a bit less guanciale since we'd been nibbling on it for the last month over the holidays. As it turns out I had  8 oz. which was just enough for A'matriciana sauce  for 6 people.

   You can have this too and you don't even have to make your own guanciale. You can make A'matriciana sauce with bacon, pancetta, or proscuitto take your choice. The sauce is easy too. It comes together very fast. So fast that the next day a photographer friend who'd been at our house for dinner that night, asked me for the recipe and made it himself for a clients dinner at his house a couple of nights later. He liked it that much, and it was that easy.


Pasta A'matriciana

Here's What You Need:
8 oz of guanciale, bacon, pancetta or proscuitto
1 lb of pasta
1 red onion
1 large can of San Marzano type Italian tomatoes
1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes
Pecorino Romano cheese
Here's What To Do:
Chop the guanciale or bacon into 1/4 inch pieces.

Heat a large pan or skillet.
When the pan is hot add in the guanciale/bacon and render it down slowly until it's crispy and brown.

Lift it out of the skillet and set it aside.

Keep the fat. Yes, you heard me keep it. You will be using it to cook the rest of the sauce. Needless to say, this is not something you want to be doing too often. Also, if it makes you feel any better, (less guilty, more healthy) you can pour off some of the fat before moving ahead.
Toss in the chopped red onion and cook them down until they're translucent.

Add in the San Marzano tomatoes and the red pepper flakes.

The thing about San Marzanos is that these are the very, very, very, best, no contest canned tomatoes one can get anywhere. In fact in many cases they're better than any fresh tomatoes available. They're grown on the slopes of Vesuvius and you can read about them here. Don't be fooled by brands that are grown here in the US , sorry to say, I've tried them and they just ain't the same.

Squish the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon (always always use a wooden spoon when cooking tomato sauce as metal will tarnish the flavor) and cook them down a bit until the sauce thickens. This takes about 10 minutes or so  add in the cooked gunaciale or bacon, heat it up and you're ready for business.

Patsy was waiting hopefully. She was trying to blackmail me into giving her some by stealing a stick of kindling from the fireplace stack. It didn't work.

Cook the fresh pasta, (fresh cooks in about 3 minutes or so). You'll know it's done when the pasta floats to the top of the pot.
Put the pasta in a bowl and ladle the sauce over it. Sprinkle everything with some grated Pecorino Romano and serve it up.

   This pasta is a real winner. A meaty, sightly spicy sauce made for chilly winter nights. And because it's an easy fix, it's also a great satisfying company meal. Give it a whirl, whether you make your own guanciale or not.

   Coming up next, South Indian Shrimp with a tasty twist. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. Can you suggest some options for meat?... vegetarian option

  2. @heli,
    Yes i made a second version for avegetarian guest subbing mushrooms for bacon

  3. That guanciale looks gorgeous, as does the pasta! Having lived in Rome for so many years, this dish has a special place in my heart and table. Nice to see you're keeping up with your roots, Kathy!

  4. totally yummy, I am a guanciale addict myself, in a previous life I even used to slice it thin and put it on toasted bread, pure heaven!

  5. @Madonnadelpiatto,
    mmmm...sounds good..just uncooked guanciale?

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