In November of 2013, Chef Rocco Agostino and I took a trip to Rome to eat, to drink, to get inspired and to see how the Romans live. While it was a relatively quick trip (5 days) we packed in as many experiences as humanly possible. We ate prosciutto and mozzarella di bufala on patios, we sipped espresso in tiny cafes, we even went to Rocco’s cousins’ house for a wonderful home-cooked meal. The reason for this trip was to get inspired by Rome and the fantastic food. Let me tell you, walking around this historic city it’s almost impossible NOT to feel inspired.
The food of Rome is simple in its preparation but sophisticated on the palate. One of the classic Roman dishes that I fell in love with in my first year at Enoteca Sociale was Bucatini all’Amatriciana. I wanted to find the perfect Amatriciana. I needed to taste it in the city where it was created so I could have the proper reference point to deliver the same experience back in Toronto. So we scoured the city in search of the perfect pasta. We found one in a rather upscale restaurant made with rigatoni. The pasta was okay, but not what I expected from such a well-respected restaurant. The guanciale was seemingly deep-fried, not rendered slowly in the pan as it should be. The tomato sauce wasn’t properly reduced, and there was too much pecorino and not enough chili in the dish. Overall, a rather disappointing experience. I was growing concerned that we wouldn’t find the perfect Amatriciana until we stumbled into a quaint little place named Trattoria Lilli. We ordered the pasta and when it came out it was glistening, the guanciale unctuous yet crispy, the tomato sauce reduced to a deep crimson and just enough cheese to bring it all together. I was in heaven.
We left Rome that afternoon with our bellies full, our feet sore from walking and our minds spinning with new inspirations. The trip, although rather short, was a great success. And one other thing, having now been to Rome and tasted a proper Bucatini all’ Amatriciana, I can say without a shadow of a doubt, I would put our version of the dish at Enoteca Sociale up against any pasta in Rome.
So from our table to yours, here is our recipe below!
Serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 pound guanciale (or pancetta), cut into 1-inch slivers 1/4 -inch thick
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili flakes
3 cups canned crushed San Marzano tomatoes (about one 28-ounce can)
1 pound bucatini
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese, plus more for serving
Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet. Add guanciale (or pancetta) and sauté until barely beginning to brown. Add garlic, chili flakes and sauté over medium heat until lightly cooked.
Add tomatoes. Cook about 10 minutes, until sauce has reduced by roughly half. Season with a pinch of salt. Remove from heat.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add bucatini and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain and transfer to skillet. Gently reheat contents of skillet, folding pasta and tomato sauce together until they are heated through, making sure pasta is well-coated, about 5 minutes. Fold in grated pecorino cheese. Check seasoning and serve with more cheese on the side.