Issue 28

Long ago and not so far away

Long ago and not so far away

About a decade and a half ago and 30 miles northwest of Omaha, you would have found me overseeing the line at Nicks 505 Mainstreet Grill in Fremont. Alas, it is long gone but the beautiful memories linger on. Wednesday evening was “Italian Night” and the special was Pasta All’ Amatriciana. As I made the dish for this article, the savory intoxicating aromas wafting through the air took us back and forth between the long ago and the here and now.

This recipe comes together quickly and easily and is a simple but deeply satisfying dish. My version isn’t completely authentic; the bacon would be an unsmoked pancetta or guanciale (an Italian cured pork jowl) in a more traditional version. Speaking of bacon, I was very excited to try some bacon from Harvest Valley Foods for this recipe. They are a local family that raises their animals naturally and humanely, and I must say, the results are delicious.

Also, be sure to try and find the bucatini pasta if you can. There is a reason Italians are sticklers for pairing certain pasta shapes with particular sauces and this is a case in point. The hollow tubes of spaghetti-like pasta marry perfectly with this sauce. Though I’ve tried it with other shapes, this is by far my favorite combination.

Whatever you do, don’t overcook the pasta. Cook it a minute or two less than the package says as it will cook more as you finish it in the pan with the sauce. You want it to still be al dente (have a slight bit of firmness when served). You’ll give the pasta an extra depth of flavor by finishing the cooking in the sauce and infusing the flavor into the pasta itself.

Bucatini All’Amatriciana

(Hollow Pasta with Amatrice-style Tomato Sauce)

4 Servings

Ingredients:

1Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. butter

12 oz. bacon sliced into strips 1/2″ wide and l” long

2 cups yellow onion diced fine

3 1/2 cups small diced canned tomatoes with juice

1/2 tsp. hot red pepper flakes

3 garlic cloves finely chopped

1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

1/4 cup rough chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

1 pound bucatini pasta (may substitute penne, rigatoni or conchiglie pasta)

Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Directions:

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat, add bacon and sauté until lightly browned and crispy. Remove bacon and drain on paper towel lined plate. Pour off all but 4-5 Tbsp. of the bacon drippings, then sauté onions in the same pan with the remaining drippings until they are softened but not browned. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and simmer for about 5-10 minutes or until sauce starts to lightly thicken (the pasta will absorb some liquid, so leave the sauce a little thin or the finished dish may be too dry). Season with the kosher salt and black pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta while the sauce simmers. Cook a minute or two less than suggested to keep it al dente (still slightly firm). Drain pasta, reserving a cup or so of the pasta water. Add pasta to the simmering sauce and toss over low heat to combine for about a minute or two. If it gets too dry, add a little of the reserved pasta water. Take off the heat and put in a serving bowl, add the bacon, cheeses and parsley, toss again and serve.

Charles Schlussel

Charles Schlussel

Professional head shaver, reckless adventurer, erstwhile semi-pro skydiver*(*amateur lander), fanatical tomato lover, All around awesome cook extraordinaire.


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