Saturday, January 2, 2010

Pasta alla amatriciana (alla Hungry Dog)

What's the recipe you turn to on a busy weeknight, when you haven't thought ahead and shopped for groceries, and you must make do with pantry staples?

In my house, the answer is, without a doubt: pasta alla amatriciana.

What makes this dish so great for a weeknight? For one thing, I always have the ingredients on hand. For another, you can give Rachael Ray a run for her money and whip it up in under 30. And did I mention it's unarguably delicious? Spicy, bacony, tomato-y pasta? Yes, please!

There's been a slow evolution to my pasta alla amatriciana. I started off using Marcella Hazan's recipe but after many years of making it, I've adapted the proportions to suit my preferences. I'm afraid the changes are quintessentially American: I've substituted bacon for pancetta, and upped the amount (um...we like pork); instead of using parmesan and romano I just use whichever I happen to have; and I add way more tomatoes than Marcella's recipe calls for, for two reasons: 1) I don't like using a fraction of a can of tomatoes and then having to drum up another use for the leftovers and 2) I like pasta with more sauce. I understand that this is not the way Italians eat their pasta, but in case you hadn't figured it out, I am totally not Italian. And as a Chinese-Swedish-Finnish California native, I don't feel too bad saying that my amatriciana sauce, authentic or not, is pretty damn good.

Here's the recipe, my friends. If you don't eat pork, skip the recipe altogether: there's just no point in making this sauce without it.

Pasta alla amatriciana (alla Hungry Dog)

1lb. pasta (I like penne)

1 onion, chopped
2 T. vegetable oil
1T. butter
5 slices bacon, chopped
1 28-oz can plum tomatoes, chopped up
2 dried chilies (the ones I usually have on hand are arbol chilies)
1/2 c. grated parmesan, plus more for serving

Heat oil and butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add onion, and cook gently for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Do not let it brown.

Add bacon and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. The bacon should not get crispy.

Add tomatoes, a hefty sprinkling of salt, and break the two chili peppers into the sauce, releasing the seeds. Chuck the pepper husks in too. Give the whole pan a good stir. Once the sauce is simmering at a medium simmer, let it go for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta to al dente, and drain.

Fish the dried chili pepper husks out and taste the sauce for seasoning. Add more salt if necessary, then toss with the hot pasta. Add cheese and toss again.

Serve with additional grated cheese and a bottle of red.


  1. Mmm. I bet the bacon adds just the right amount of salty goodness to this. I love quick, go-to dinners. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I have been meaning to try this kind of sauce for such a long time. It sounds so wonderful!

  3. Love it! I make amatriciana all the time, it's one of my favorites.

  4. Oh, I've never heard of pasta alla amatriciana but sounds amazing, especially the Hungry Dog version! ;-)

  5. Your photos are mouth-watering! Most of us have every ingredient (in some form or another) in our pantry. Super great recipe!

  6. Oh, HD, this is wonderful. YUM! You could do a lot worse for a go-to pasta recipe!

    Heh, if you leave out the bacon and add garlic, it's pasta all'arrabbiata. I love Italian cooking!

  7. Truer words were never spoken, if there's no bacon, it's just not worth it! This looks like an extremely bacony good pasta. I have to say our quick dish staple is Chinese fried rice :).

  8. Yum yum yum! Thanks for reminding me of another good, hearty, easy weeknight meal. And happy New Year!

  9. Those of you who haven't tried this should give it a whirl...assuming you eat bacon! :)

    Kate: you're right, of course! That's another great classic!

    shaz: Oh yes, fried rice is another good one--assuming you have day old rice around. That's a fabulous way to use up just about any leftover veggies or meat.

  10. I like the way you think! Your changes are the way we prefer it as well.

    Thank you for the reminder, you made me realize we haven't had this in quite a while ~ it will be on the menu SOON.

    Wonderful, mouthwatering photos!

  11. i like my pasta dishes saucy too. and cheesy. and spicy. so this is right up my alley, although i will say that i've never particularly liked penne. i think it's too meaty and thick and masks the other flavors going on. regardless of my pasta preferences, this is undeniably good stuff. :)

  12. I love, love, love lots of cheese on my pasta. Sometimes the more simple the sauce the better it is, it allows all the flavours to blend. Did I mention I love pasta?

  13. haha, i love that you said you could give Rachel Ray a run for her money! Looks delicious - hope you had a very happy NYE!

  14. There are few things more comforting than a delicious plate of hot pasta. Droolworthy picture!
    *Kisses* HH

  15. Mari: I hope you do make it soon! It's a wonderful dish for cold nights.

    Grace: Not much for the penne, eh? Well, I do believe this sauce is supposed to go with bucatini if you prefer that?

    bakingsimplicity; I'm with you, love pasta, love cheese--put 'em together and I'm in heaven!

    Megan: thanks! Hope you had a wonderful NY too!

    Heavenly Housewife: "droolworthy" might be the best compliment I have ever gotten. Thanks!

  16. om nom nom nom nom -- so delicious. Would love to try this sauce over some roasted eggplant or flattened chicken cutlets!

  17. That's one of my favorite sauces - in fact last year when I was overrun with tomatoes I turned some of them into this sauce and froze it, which actually came out ok!

  18. Denise: it would be fabulous over roasted eggplant or chicken...thanks for the idea! :)

    Michele: I love freezing get to enjoy them later on without the work! now if only we had a microwave, freezing stuff would be even better...

    Thanks for stopping by!

  19. Carbs be damned. It's hard to beat a good bowl of pasta. Pure comfort.