Pasta dishes are so well-suited for weeknight cooking. There are so many delicious versions of a "sauce" you can make that take the same amount of time (or less) that it takes for the water to boil and the pasta to cook. Pasta all'Amatriciana is one of my favorite pasta dishes and it's based on a classic. The richness of the pork combined with the intensity of the tomato brings huge flavor that doesn't require a long time to develop.
I've adapted the traditional all'Amatriciana slightly by using bacon instead of the more traditional guanciale or even pancetta. Also, I've left out the pepper flakes because I'm serving this to the kids. I usually sprinkle the pepper flakes at the end to my plated portion. Just remember to drain your tomatoes really well. You only want the tomatoes and not really any of the juice the tomatoes are packed in. You want to really cook down the tomatoes into a very concentrated pulp. Also, remember to really salt the water that the pasta cooks in. Just a pinch of salt is not enough. The water should taste well-seasoned. Then you toss the pasta into the sauce for the last minute of cooking to marry the sauce with the pasta.
Ingredients: 4 strips of thick-cut bacon, 1 small onion, 2 cloves of garlic, one 28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes, whatever pasta you prefer/have, olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese
- Get a big pot of water boiling.
- Slice bacon into thin strips.
- In a hot saute pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil and the sliced bacon.
- Dice the onion and add it to the pan.
- Mince the garlic and add it to the pan.
- When the bacon has started to crisp a little and the onions are soft and start to become a little caramelized, add the drained tomatoes.
- Use a wooden spoon to start breaking up the tomatoes. They will continue to soften and break down as they cook.
- Season the sauce with a little salt & pepper.
- Drop your pasta.
- Continue to cook down the sauce and break up the tomato.
- You want the liquid from the tomatoes to cook off and the pulp to start to "fry" in the pan.
- When your pasta is just about done, add it to sauce. If you drain it in a colander first, reserve about a cup of the pasta water. I usually grab the pasta with tongs and transfer directly into the sauce while the pasta is still wet. The residual pasta water will help bring the sauce together.
- Cook the pasta in the sauce for the last minute and serve.
- Shower however much cheese you like onto the pasta.
NOTE: If you want it spicy, add a pinch or so of red pepper flakes when you add the onions.