I still had some of that lovely guanciale (pork jowl) left over from my trip to the farmers market and decided to use it in one of the most traditional and well-known Roman dishes: pasta all'Amatriciana.
Before I started writing , I did some research and found out several things I was not aware of:
1. Amatriciana is not traditionally a Roman recipe. It originates from Amatrice, a mountain town in the province of Rieti, and was brought to Rome by its shepherds who used to move their sheep, goats and cows to the pastures around Rome in the winter and sold their products in the markets of the city.
2. Originally the sauce was called Gricia, or griscia, apparently from Grisciano, the name of a village near Amatrice. It is an ancient recipe, prepared long before tomatoes were brought to the Old World from America, and it is still made today.
3. The original recipe for Amatriciana does not include onions. Who knew? I have always made it with onions. If you want to be true to its origins, however, do not use any.
Ingredients (for 4 people):
100gr. guanciale cut into strips
1 cup/can tomato sauce (or approx. 4 tomatoes)
1 chilli pepper or pepper or both
75 gr. grated pecorino romano cheese (psst. if you don't have any, you can use parmesan instead, but don't tell your Roman friends!)
400gr. spaghetti (Romans use bucatini, but it seems spaghetti is the original pasta)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Grossly chop up an onion and cut the guanciale into strips. Put some olive oil into a large pan and start sweating the onions with the chili pepper. When they have softened, add in the guanciale and cook until it starts turning golden. It should however not become crunchy in texture. Add in the fresh tomato chunks or sauce. In the meantime, cook the pasta. When it is ready, drain it and mix it into the sauce, adding plenty of pecorino cheese. If you are preparing individual plates, sprinkle over more pecorino and freshly ground black pepper before serving.