From America's Test Kitchen Season 5: More Italian Classics
Pasta all’Amatriciana is a classic Roman pasta dish that boasts a rich sauce containing tomato, bacon, onion, and Pecorino Romano cheese. Unfortunately, for a truly authentic dish, you need a specific type of bacon, guanciale (made from pork jowls), which is easy to find in central Italy but not so easy to locate in the States. We wanted to create a recipe that would do this classic sauce justice using ingredients found locally. Thickly sliced pancetta (unsmoked Italian bacon) is the best substitute for guanciale but if you can’t find pancetta, bacon works too. We cut the pancetta into strips and cooked them in a skillet until crisp, then built the sauce in the remaining fat. Canned diced tomatoes, onion, and red pepper flakes made up the sauce; we kept the pancetta separate until the end so it stayed crisp in the finished dish. For the last steps, we tossed the crisp pancetta in with the tomato sauce and pasta (long-strand pasta, like bucatinior linguine, works best) and sprinkled grated Pecorino Romano cheese on top.
This dish is traditionally made with bucatini, also called perciatelli, which appear to be thick, round strands but are actually thin, extralong tubes. Linguine works fine, too. When buying pancetta, ask the butcher to slice it 1/4 inch thick; if using bacon, buy slab bacon and cut it into 1/4-inch-thick slices yourself. If the pancetta that you’re using is very lean, it’s unlikely that you will need to drain off any fat before adding the onion. Use 1 1/2 small (14 1/2-ounce) cans of diced tomatoes, or dice a single large (28 ounce) can of whole tomatoes packed in juice.