Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pasta Amatriciana

While I don't tend to repeat recipes too frequently over a given period of time (there are just so many others to make or new ones to experiment with), this is just one of those dishes that stays with you and begs to be repeated. The funny thing is, it's really not a dish that should have such a pull in that it's just so simple and unassuming. Perhaps, however, it is that very simplicity that makes it so special.

While technically this pasta should be called all'amatriciana to be true to its original Italian heritage, my version is just enough off of the tried and true version calling for dried pork cheeks and Pecorino cheese that I'll just stick to my original simplified moniker. Surprisingly, the Amatrice-originated variety that came to be so many years ago didn't call for onions. While I'm not always happy with standardizing authentic recipes, I'm glad onions got into the mix somewhere along the line. For me, they are essential here!

My version of this "classic" is truly very easy and simple to make. The fact that it can be pulled together from everyday pantry and fridge items, be on the table in a virtual (i.e. "kitchen virtual") blink of the eye...and be such a satisfying and warm bowl of goodness...makes it one of my favorite, quick pastas.

While your pasta water boils, you can chop up the four key ingredients that make up the flavorful "amatriciana" sauce -- garlic, onions, tomatoes...and turkey bacon (yep...it's great in this!). To this you'll add some crushed red pepper flakes and some white wine to give it all a little kick in flavor. Then...drop your pasta in to cook and when it's al dente add it to your tomato mixture, along with some of your pasta water to give the whole thing a bit more of a saucy consistency. Drizzle everything with a little more olive oil and serve it with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Thought to finish on this dish...maybe 30 minutes.

Pasta Amatriciana...a la Savory Nest
serves 4


4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 to 12 slices turkey bacon (depending on how "meaty" you want your sauce)
1 large onion, chopped (at least 2 cups chopped onion)
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
6 Roma tomatoes (or a flavorful ripe tomato of your choice)
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more for a spicier kick)
1 pound spaghetti pasta (anywhere from 14 to 16 ounces)
salt and pepper, to taste
shredded Parmesan cheese, to top
Note: While not added this particular time around, sliced (drained) black olives are also a great addition.

1. Bring large pot of water to boil. Season water with salt. Once water reaches a boil, drop in pasta and cook for 9 to 11 minutes, until al dente.

2. While pasta water is boiling, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add turkey bacon and onion and sauté until onion just softens and bacon is lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add in garlic and cook another minute before adding in tomatoes, white wine, and red pepper flakes. (If you are adding black olives, toss these in as well.) Simmer sauce for another 10 to 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. (Note...you'll be adding some of the salty pasta water next so keep that in mind when you are seasoning your sauce.)

3. Once ready, use tongs to transfer pasta to sauce. Add a couple of ladles of the pasta water to your mixture to loosen it a bit. Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over top and heat through. Plate pasta and top with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and additional red pepper flakes, if desired.

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