As you may know, I have a love-hate relationship with Giada de Laurentiis. I use and like many of her recipes, as evidenced by this blog (I'm sure a search of The Hungry Dog would result in at least 15 of her recipes, maybe more). However, I dislike her for being so much better than me in every single way. This is a good example of my immaturity.
Usually, though, she makes stuff I want to eat. Hunger trumps pettiness in this house. So when I saw her make a fancy version of bucatini alla amatriciana during an episode she filmed with her Aunt Rafi (who, incidentally, I'd like to be related to), I knew it was going on my to-try list.
Giada took a basic recipe amatriciana recipe (a staple in our house, though I use a Marcella Hazan recipe, tweaked) and as my little niece Scrappy would say, "kicked it up a nacho." She put together some delicious and simple meatballs, stuffed them with mozzarella, and served them alongside the pasta amatriciana.
This is a very good idea. While I did make some minor adjustments--I swapped pork for the veal; doubled the amount of crushed tomatoes; and used plain mozzarella instead of smoked--the overall concept is spectacular. And although it's a little more work than just making amatriciana, it's a whole lot more exciting.
The only other adjustment I'll make next time is to use spaghetti--or rigatoni maybe-- instead of bucatini. Although it's traditional with this sauce, I've always found bucatini hard to eat. The husband agreed, although he seemed happily distracted by the savory little meatballs oozing mozzarella into the spicy tomato-and-bacon sauce.
Clearly, this is not a sauce for the vegetarian. Or even for those who don't eat pork. While I think the meatballs would be delicious with ground chicken or turkey, I can't imagine a good amatriciana without pancetta or bacon. I mean, that's just tomato sauce.
It'd be hard to not to love a big bowl of this pasta, especially if you're enjoying it on a windy friday night with your sweetie and a good bottle of Chianti. In fact, I'm certain nothing trumps that.