A famous dish and one of our favorite Roman pasta, bucatini all’amatriciana is a true celebration of Italian cuisine made with bucatini pasta, tomatoes, guanciale, and Pecorino Romano cheese. There are many interpretations of the original recipe, but most include different amounts of these four main ingredients mentioned above. Pasta all’amatriciana is simple to make, delicious, and easy enough so that anyone can do it and with this recipe, we guarantee excellent results.
Bucatini all’amatriciana is a pasta dish regularly eaten in Roman households, like pasta carbonara or gricia, and the recipe has been tweaked and amended over time. Starting from the thickness and shape of the strips of bacon, for example, or the different methods of frying them (without fat or with oil or lard) and how they are simmered (wine, vinegar, or neither).
One small but important variation relates to the choice of pasta shapes. Another big point of contention is the amount of garlic and onion used in the preparation, if indeed there is any at all. However, in our version of pasta amatriciana, we propose the use of bucatini, spaghetti or spaghettoni, peeled tomatoes, a delicate and not too salty Pecorino Romano, and finally red pepper flakes peperoncino and dry white wine to complete the dish.
Equipment you’ll need to make amatriciana pasta
large pot for boiling water
pan, large skillet or sauté pan for making the sauce
colander for draining the pasta
cutting board for chopping ingredients
sharp knife for cutting ingredients
cheese grater for grating cheese
wooden spoon for stirring the sauce
From start to finish, this easy pasta recipe only takes a little over 30 minutes to make. This spaghetti all’amatriciana recipe is simply delicious and so easy to make, it is perfect for a quick dinner!
Ingredients for making amatriciana
Bucatini packaged noodles (0.71 lb | 320 grams) – if you can’t find bucatini pasta, you can substitute it with another long pasta such as spaghetti or spaghettoni (which is a thick spaghetti). Be sure to follow the package instructions in the recipe box for al dente pasta.
Fresh or canned tomatoes (0.66 lb | 300 grams/ 4 or 5 tomatoes) – you will need to remove the peel before using the tomatoes, you can do so by submerging them in boiling water for a few minutes and then removing the skin. Remove the seeds and chop them up into pieces. Many Italians prefer San Marzano tomatoes in all their sauces. You can also use canned tomatoes if that is what you have.
Guanciale (0.5 cup | 120 grams) – this is cured pork jowl for that rich pork flavor. Don’t worry if you can’t find this cut, you can use pancetta or seasoned bacon instead.
Pecorino Romano cheese (0.5 cup | 50 grams) – grate the Pecorino Romano cheese before using it in the amatriciana recipe. If you find Pecorino Romano too strong, you can use Pecorino Toscano or even Parmigiano Reggiano instead although that is not what is used in the traditional pasta all’amatriciana recipe.
Red pepper (1) – you can either use red chili pepper or red pepper flakes to make your spaghetti amatriciana sauce as spicy or mild as you and your family prefer. Or you can leave the red pepper flakes out completely if you want a milder dish.
Dry white wine (1/2 glass) – add some dry white wine for depth, a wine you typically use for cooking is fine. If you want to skip the wine, you can add a small amount of pasta water instead.
Extra virgin olive oil – use the good stuff for this recipe, as the flavor of the olive oil really comes through in the final sauce.
Salt (to taste) – we highly recommend using kosher salt, you will want to add a pinch to the sauce and some to the water as well.
Black pepper (to taste) – hands down our preference is for freshly ground black pepper.
How to make amatriciana tomato sauce step by step
Cook the tomatoes: If you are starting with fresh tomatoes instead of canned, bring the pot of water to a boil and then dump in the washed tomatoes for a few minutes (photo 1). Pour them into a colander to drain and cool them off under cold tap water (photo 2). Remove the skins and then cut into slices and remove the seeds.
Start the pasta water: Refill the pot with pasta cooking water and set it back on the stove and bring it to a boil.
Start the amatriciana sauce: In a sauté pan (preferably an iron skillet) heat olive oil on medium-high heat and add the guanciale cut into strips of about 1 or 2 centimeters long (photo 3). When the fat from the guanciale starts to melt, add the black pepper (photo 4).
Cook the guanciale until it has browned, then simmer it with the white wine (photo 5). Let it evaporate, drain the cured pork jowl, and set it aside but keep it warm (photo 6). In the same skillet, put the tomatoes that you prepared in step one and cook for the same time as the pasta.
Cook the pasta: Add salt to the boiling water, then add the pasta to the salted water (photo 7) and cook for the time indicated on the pasta box for al dente. Set aside a small cup of pasta water in case you need to add it later to the sauce.
Add the guanciale and remove hot pepper flakes: When the pasta is almost cooked, add the guanciale back into the sauce in the iron skillet (photo 9) and remove the chili pepper.
Combine it all together and serve: Drain and transfer the pasta directly into the pan with the tomato sauce and carefully stir until mixed well (photo 10). Turn off the heat and add the grated Pecorino cheese and fresh ground pepper to taste. Mix well and serve immediately, sprinkling your pasta all’amatriciana with more grated Pecorino Romano cheese on top if desired.
Expert tips for making amatriciana sauce
Use peeled tomatoes only. This recipe will not come out correctly if you do not properly peel the tomatoes before adding them and also remove the seeds. You might want to mash them during cooking to break them down quickly if you like a smooth rather than chunky sauce.
Turn off the heat. Be sure to turn off the heat before adding the Pecorino cheese to the dish during the final moments of preparation to get a nice creamy pasta dish.
Add garlic. Although not usually included in pasta amatriciana, some people just really love garlic and want it to be put everywhere. It can be surprisingly delicious when you add a crushed garlic clove or two to the hot olive oil and then remove it before it browns. We have seen some recipes call for both garlic and onion, but we prefer to choose one or the other, if at all.
Add onion. While some people swear genuine traditional pasta amatriciana has no onions, other people swear that it actually is the traditional choice. We happen to like it. You can chop 1/2 a small white or golden onion and add it to the sauce at the same time you add the guanciale and let it get golden, then cook the sauce as directed.
Make white amatriciana or gricia. Amatriciana bianca is actually another of the Roman pasta called gricia or griscia. This is almost the identical recipe for amatriciana sauce but without the tomato aka red sauce. If you do decide not to add tomatoes you will need to set aside some of the pasta cooking water to add back into the sauce so it isn’t too dry and possibly a bit more cheese. If you leave out the cured pork guanciale, then it becomes like a cacio e pepe, but that is an entirely different dish with a lot more Pecorino and black pepper.
How long can you store amatriciana?
You can store amatriciana pasta that has already been cooked for up to one day in an airtight container. We do not recommend freezing cooked pasta, as it doesn’t defrost well.
Can amatriciana sauce be reheated?
Yes, if you have some leftover pasta without the sauce, then you can easily reheat the amatriciana sauce and cook fresh spaghetti or bucatini to combine with it. When reheating the pasta, put a splash of water and reheat over medium flame, stirring occasionally, until warmed through.
How is amatriciana different from carbonara?
While the two pasta dishes are somewhat alike, the main differences are that carbonara has eggs and does not have red sauce, while amatriciana has no eggs but does have tomato sauce.
Bucatini all Amatriciana Sauce Recipe
The origins of pasta amatriciana sauce
According to some sources, before amatriciana there was a pasta called gricia without tomatoes from the small town of Grisciano near Amatrice, where amatriciana is from. The shepherds from the region would put together a quick meal of basic ingredients, just guanciale, Pecorino cheese, pasta, olive oil and salt, with records of this combination found as far back as the 12th century. It wasn’t until tomatoes made their way to Italy in the 17th century that the nearby town of Amatrice started adding them to the gricia sauce and amatriciana sauce was born. It later made its way to Rome and became famous there as well, where it is one of the most popular pasta dishes today.