Thursday, January 05, 2012

Rigatoni Amatriciana Americana


#1 - I like pasta, and not the healthy whole wheat, high fiber, fortified stuff that tastes like a cardboard box. I mean the fluffy white flour and egg stuff. No extra healthy stuff added. Plain, old, fattening pasta.

#2 - I am lazy. Pasta is easy, part of the reason why I like it.

#3 - Pasta can get boring when all you do is boil it to death and pour a jar of sauce over it.

#4 - Pasta doesn't have to be boring...even easy pasta.

#5 - Pasta and sauce doesn't have to have fancy salumi, specialty cheese, truffles, or any of the other rarefied, expensive, and exotic ingredients that you see on pro cooking show with chefs like Lidia, Mario, or Giada.

#6 - I hate leftovers

#7 - I actually look forward to leftovers of the recipe I am about to share.

#8 - This recipe is so easy it almost isn't a recipe.

#9 - I didn't get this recipe handed down to me from an Italian nonna, I never had an Italian nonna. I found various recipes of a dish I fell in love with a long time ago and I tinkered with them until I came up with a version that I liked.

#10 - I am running out of things to add to this bullet list, but 10 sounded like a nice round number to aim for, I'll stop at this one.

Amatriciana is a sauce that originated in a town called Amatrice which is located in a mountainous region Northeast of Rome. It is a simple tomato based sauce with dried or cured pork and hard white cheese. That's it.

Of course there are purists who will just as soon stone you as look at you if you even think about added onions, garlic, or olive oil. There are others who argue that adding those things is what makes it a TRUE amatriciana and not a gricia (and let's not even get into gricia and the argument about whether or not to add tomatoes).

*Sigh* What do you expect, they are Italians and they live to eat, and this is one of the many things we love about them.

Amatriciana can be served with any pasta but spaghetti and bucatini are the favorites in Italy. Until about 5 years ago I had never seen bucatini on a shelf at my grocery store and even today it isn't always readily available. If you don't know what bucatini is, think of spaghetti but with a hole down the middle like a straw.

Also considered traditional is pecorino cheese...also not always readily available so I usually use whatever I have on hand which ends up being romano or parmigiano or even in one desperate circumstance a mixture of edam and gruyere.

OK, I'm not explaining this well. To get a sense of how Italians feel about their recipes, their traditions, their ingredients, and their food on the whole, watch this clip from Anthony Bourdain's show "No Reservations"...

If you don't want to watch the whole thing just watch from 4:40 to 6:12. Then just forward to the fight for the heck of it, right about 6:40.

So here is a link to the recipe I developed to work with the ingredients I could find.

I would never dream of calling this a true amatriciana, hence the Americana in the name.

That link is for the written down/measure everything/time things version. Here is the real way to make this recipe, hope you are a multi-taker who doesn't worry too much about exact measurements, like me...

#1 - Pick your favorite pasta, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil add a little salt and a little olive oil and add your pasta, cook it until it is however you like it. I won't judge you if you like it mushy. Drain, toss with a tiny bit of oil and set aside.

#2 - While waiting for the water to boil, fry a few strips of bacon in a pan, when bacon is crisp remove it and allow to drain on paper towels then dice and set aside. Try not to eat all the bacon before the sauce is done.

#3 - While bacon is frying (sense a trend yet?), peel and finely dice a small onion and set aside, when the bacon is out of the pan add a little olive oil to the bacon grease then add the onion to that and cook until tender, make sure to scrape all the fond left from the bacon and incorporate it into the onions.

#4 - When the onions are translucent and tender add a little garlic, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and a teensy bit of salt. Cook for a minute, stirring to combine.

#5 - Pour 2 cans of crushed or diced tomatoes with their juices (or whole, but if you use whole chop them up or crush them in your hands before adding) to the onion mix and stir well, then stir in the bacon and a generous handful of grated cheese. Allow this to cook until it thickens.

#6 - If the sauce is too dry (I live at higher altitude in a very dry place), add a little water, this will also stretch the sauce a little.

#7 - When sauce is done to your liking, pour it over the pasta and toss to combine.

#8 - Top with more cheese, serve, and snarff.

#9 - Leave the dishes for someone else to do.

#10 - Sneak down to the fridge and help yourself to the leftovers at midnight because you are craving it again.

This makes enough to serve 6 adults...or 1 adult for six meals. I have no idea how many millions of calories or grams of fat or milligrams of sodium it has, I don't really care either. It has tomatoes, onions, and garlic and they are good for you so I firmly believe they cancel all the other stuff out.

If you want to make a smoother, less chunky sauce, just put the tomatoes w/juices and the water in your blender and puree it until smooth and then add to the pan. It will coat more evenly this way. I leave it chunky because I like the texture of large pieces of bacon and tomato.

Make it your way, make it your own. Who cares what it is called or the "right" way to make it. Eat what you love and don't apologize to anyone for not doing it THEIR way, if they don't like what you make, they don't have to eat it.

If you are in the Cache Valley area and want to try an authentic amatriciana head over to Le Nonne. Gia's and Olive Garden don't have it, I've looked. Chef Micheli is from Tuscany and the entire menu is fresh, genuine, and delicious. I have never had a bad meal at Le Nonne. My favorite meal there is the carpaccio to start, the four cheese gnocchi for an entree, and an orange San Pellegrino to drink. On the deck in the summer, if I close my eyes it almost feels like I'm back in Italy.

PS - Before you comment or email me about the pasta...yes I realize that the photo has penne in it and not rigatoni. I prefer rigatoni but when I made this the other day I was fresh out so I used what I had on hand.

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