Michael Romano
Executive Chef
Union Square Cafe
New York NY
Author, Union Square Cafe Cookbook (Harper Collins 1994)

Bucatini All' Amatriciana

"With regard to seeking out exotic foods as aphrodisiacs, I'm not a believer. Any food, if prepared and presented with the right intention and lots of tender loving care, cannot fail to stir the passion of your loved one. This Valentine's Day I recommend my recipe for Bucatini all' Amatriciana, its easy to do and the sauce is so lusty and satisfying! Because the pasta itself, a thick, hollow spaghetti, is notoriously unwieldy on the fork, I suggest you and your beloved enjoy it wearing large napkins... and nothing else!"

Serves 4

A staple on the menu of most Roman trattorie, this dish originated in the small town of Amatrice, just 90 miles outside of the Eternal City. The classic pasta choice is Bucatini. A thick hollow spaghetti whose toothsomeness holds up to the bacony sauce. If you can't find Bucatini, look for Perciatelli. Either one of these takes a longer time to cook than most other pastas, so be sure to check the package for proper cooking times. When fresh red chili peppers are not in season, you can use jalapeno instead. Romans are perfectly satisfied to quaff a refreshing carafe of Frascati with their Bucatini. Additionally we'd recommend Soave Classico or Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

  • 3 pounds fresh or canned tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound pancetta, cut into pieces 1/4 inch thick by 1 inch long
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 1/2tablespoons minced fresh chili pepper, seeds removed (3 medium)
  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh basil leaves, plus 4 sprigs
  • 1 1/2cups finely grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 pound Bucatini or Perciatelli
In a 3 quart non-reactive saucepan heat the tomatoes over medium heat until juicy, about 5 minutes. Pass the tomatoes through a food mill to remove their seeds and skins. You will have about 5 cups of tomato puree, reserve.

Wipe the saucepan clean and return to medium heat. Add the olive oil and the pancetta, stirring until the pancetta is crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon and reserve.

Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Add the onions and cook over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Pour in the white wine, and reduce by 3/4. Add the pureed tomatoes, chili pepper, and red pepper flakes. Simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

Add the reserved pancetta, basil, and 3/4 of the Pecorino Romano. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the cheese from sticking to the bottom of the pan. (May be prepared up to this point, and frozen for future use).

Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook the Bucatini al dente. Toss with the sauce, transfer to a warmed bowl, and serve, sprinkled with the remaining cheese and garnished with the basil sprigs.