Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

I’m Rome born and raised so pasta all’amatriciana is in my DNA. There is no Roman cook that doesn’t make it. There is no Roman trattoria that doesn’t offer it in its menu. There is even a famous restaurant called Il Matriciano… quite expensive though. If you happen to be in Rome, you may want to pay it a visit.

The recipe that I am about to share with you presents a few deviations from the original recipe and this is because some of the ingredients are almost impossible to find in the United States (unless you live in big cities where you can find truly Italian food stores). Therefore, most likely you will have to go for a substitute ingredient which is as close as possible to the original one.

Nonetheless, I think it is important that I give you a little information about the original recipe. The reasons for that are twofold: the first is that when you talk to Italian people about this pasta, you can show them that you really know what you are talking about (without getting that judgmental look!) and the second is that if you are lucky enough to find all of the original ingredients, you know how to handle them.

The recipe originates from Amatrice, a town located in the Lazio region, the same where Rome is. Originally, it did not include the tomatoes, which where added at the end of the 18th century. Some people mistakenly think that the Amatriciana belongs to the Roman cuisine tradition; however, it was the shepherds from Amatrice who brought the recipe to the Capital during their seasonal wanderings across the Roman countryside.

The key ingredient of this recipe is “guanciale”, a cured meat deriving from the pork’s jowl or cheek. Unfortunately, since it is impossible to find it in the place where I live, I have no choice but to go for a substitute which, in this case, would be pancetta (a cured meat deriving from the pork’s belly), hoping that Italians understand my predicament! πŸ˜‰

The other key ingredient is grated pecorino cheese from Amatrice, which must not be confused with Roman pecorino cheese as the flavor of the former is much more delicate than the latter’s. Finding Amatrice pecorino in the United States would be tantamount to an odyssey and, therefore, the suggested substitute is Parmigiano cheese instead of Roman pecorino whose strong flavor would alter the taste of the sauce.

In terms of cooking fat, the original recipe required the use of “strutto” (i.e., pork lard). However, nowadays its use has drastically diminished and contemporary cooks use much healthier olive oil instead. And since we are at it, the way real Amatriciana is done calls for you to use an iron pan (as opposed to a non-stick one) so that the guanciale or pancetta gets really nice and crisp.

As for which kind of pasta to use, De Cecco Spaghetti no. 12 is the way to go. If you happen to visit Rome, you’ll notice that all the trattoria signs “scream” at you loud and clear: “bucatini all’amatriciana” … just so you know, the use of this type of pasta is a Roman deviation from the original recipe. The only other kind of pasta that some cooks, and I underline some, allow as substitute to spaghetti is rigatoni: that’s because they are a ribbed pasta and, therefore, the sauce adheres to them well.

Last but certainly not least the seasoning. The secret seasoning ingredient of this recipe is… absolutely NOTHING. Not only does the recipe not contemplate the use of any onion, but it even bans the use of garlic. You may want to think of the Amatriciana pretty much as a vampire: you want to kill it? Add garlic. Yeah, yeah I hear you, garlic fan club. I know, I know, you love garlic so much you would put it on your buttered toast in the morning and eat it for breakfast. Plus, we are talking cooking here and what is cooking other than being creative and experiment with ingredients and flavors? Well, let me express my opinion. When it comes to spaghetti all’amatriciana, there is nothing to experiment about: centuries ago, the shepherds did a hell of a job for the sake of the palate of the human species. The shepherds’ recipe was a masterpiece centuries ago, it still is today and it will be for centuries to come! Trust me on this one and just give it a try, will you?Β  πŸ˜‰


7 lb fresh tomatoes
10 slices of pancetta, ΒΌ inch thick
ΒΌ cup extravirgin olive oil
1 fresh chili pepper
Β½ cup of dry white wine
1 lb De Cecco Spaghetti no. 12
5 Tbsp grated Parmigiano cheese


Wash the tomatoes and make a cut in the shape of an x on the bottom of each of them with aΒ  knife. Bring a large pot of water to boil and put the tomatoes in the water for 30 seconds (be watchful, because you do not want to cook them). Strain the tomatoes and rinse them with very cold water. Pull the skin of the tomatoes away and cut them in half. Remove all the seeds and cut up the tomatoes into 1 inch pieces. Set aside.

Cut up the pancetta into bits (between Β½ and ΒΎ of 1 inch).

In a large iron skillet, heat the oil and add the pancetta and the pepper. After a few minutes, add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine evaporates and the pancetta gets golden and crispy.

Add the tomatoes, season with salt (to taste) and cook for about 20 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Remove the pepper from the skillet.

In the meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain the spaghetti and put them in the skillet with the sauce. Add 3 Tbsp of Parmigiano cheese and toss to coat.

Put the spaghetti into the serving plates and dust the top of each plate with the rest of the Parmigiano cheese.

If you make it, I would love to hear from you how you like it since this is a recipe I am very fond of!

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0 thoughts on “Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

  1. apuginthekitchen

    Love this dish, now I must make it and I will go to Eataly to seek out the authentic ingredients, if anyone has it would be at Eataly. Deliious dish, one of my favorites, when I lived in Rome I had to have it at least once a week.

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    1. Francesca Post author

      Thank you for voicing your “pro garlic” opinion! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion as long as it is expressed as such – an opinion. Both, you and I, expressed two personal opinions.
      As far as I’m concerned, you can even add chocolate to amatriciana if it pleases your palate. It is a free world after all! πŸ™‚

  4. whiskeytangofoxtrot4

    I was just in Rome recently and this is one dish that I so badly wanted to try. I never got around to it sadly though. My husband got stuck on spaghetti alla carbonara and I ate cacio e pepe like seriously, twice a day…. OMG… the food was amazing… eggplant parmigiana, the wine, the beautiful artichokes we cooked up, oh and the olives. …:0) :0) :0)… I ate and drank myself sillly there. I guess we will just have to go back for some Amatriciana, but before that we will test out your recipe and dream of La Citta Eterna. I adore your blog!! cheers! kimberly

    1. Francesca Post author

      Hi Kimberly.

      Thank you very much for your nice comment. I guess I’ll have to give you the recipe of spaghetti alla carbonara if we want to make your husband happy πŸ™‚ I should thank Sarah from Diary of a House Elf because I found your wonderful blog through hers. I simply love your pictures of la Citta’ Eterna.

      1. whiskeytangofoxtrot4

        Francesca, yes please, I would love to have your recipe!! Your blog is so inspiring to me.. I get hungry and thirsty every time I read it, not to mention the fact that it makes me really badly want to travel around eating and drinking more!! Ahh the good life!!! Cheers!

        1. Francesca Post author

          I was not planning on publishing this recipe for a while but…who can resist such a lovely request? I promise I’ll publish the recipe before Christmas as a special present for you and your husband πŸ™‚ Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  5. The Literate Chef

    Great pictures, my mouth is watering! I make it as Bucatini all’ Amatriciana. I too eschew garlic in my recipe but must confess I do use onions and of course pancetta. And lacking the patience to boil and peel tomatoes, I use drained, canned San Marzano tomatoes. I have not used guanciale, but look forward to buying some on my next visit to Arthur Avenue in The Bronx. Thanks for explaining the history of the authentic Amatriciana.

  6. daisyandthefox

    this looks so lovely!!
    i was in Rome earlier this year and I am now so disappointed i didn’t try ‘Spaghetti all’Amatriciana’
    but i’m definitely going to give this a go – looks so delicious!!
    i’m always dreaming of the italian pastas – like no other!
    lovely blog πŸ™‚

    1. Francesca Post author

      Thank you. Great question! As an alternative to fresh tomatoes, I use San Marzano peeled tomatoes cans (Cento is one of my favorite brands). I crush the tomatoes with the back of a fork (but not too much – must be still chunky) and remove as many seeds as I can. Hope this is helpful πŸ˜‰

      1. afternoonartist

        Hi again, Francesca. I have assembled all the ingredients you suggested and have put this dish on the menu for this week. I’ll let you know how it turns out. One more question for you. In searching my pantry for ingredients I found a box of Spinosi Fettuccine ai Funghi Porcini (mushroom fettuccine) that a friend brought me back from Italy. Good idea to use this, or bad idea?

        1. Francesca Post author

          As you may know funghi porcini are a very flavorful and desirable type of mushrooms so I would save that precious box for a different recipe πŸ˜‰ I suggest that you use either spaghetti or rigatoni. Let me know how it turns out.