Bucatini amatriciana

Despite my better judgement, I’ve decided to come back from vacation.

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It was a tough decision, let me tell you. But after subsisting on pastries, french fries and a steady stream of wine for 10 days, it seemed prudent to return to my New York routine of kale and meals in bowls.

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…That and also a not-insignificant jaw injury from an extremely crusty baguette jolted me sharply back to reality.

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For anyone who doesn’t follow me on Instagram (Come on!! What are you waiting for!?), I’ve just returned from a little over a week in Paris, Champagne and London.

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Many champagne bottles were sabered

We enjoyed ourselves immensely, especially because it was essentially our last real vacation until the honeymoon…248 days and counting!

One of the weirdest things about coming back was that it was fully fall across the pond – highs in the glorious sixties, lows in the 50’s. And just as we had acclimated to chillier climes,  we returned home to summer.

Not that I’m complaining – I will gladly take a few more weeks of 80 degree weather.

It’s just that now I’m really, really excited for fall, and anxious to make this dijon stew, my absolute favorite recipe of all time. It’s a fact: it’s not really autumn until this stew comes off the stove and into our bellies.

It’s also appropriate to revisit it now, since the recipe was first published in the NY Times in 2001, a few weeks after 9/11. 16 years later, it’s just as relevant. When we’re feeling down or retrospective, there’s nothing like stew to take the edge off.

However. Today is not about stew. We’re not there yet. Today is about a recipe for my favorite pasta dish, bucatini amatriciana, stolen from my sister from whom I take inspiration for all my favorite things.

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Reason number 1067 why I’m so, so ready to move (18 days!!) is that the grocery stores near my current apartment are absolutely pathetic. Could it be that expecting them to carry bucatini and pancetta is asking too much? No. I refuse to accept that.

So just know that when I made this recipe I used a fancy hollow noodle called caserecce in place of the bucatini, and diced prosciutto in place of pancetta.

You should stick to the recipe though, if you can.

Ready for fall? Looking for comfort food? This should take the edge off.

Bucatini amatriciana
(Adapted from Mario Batali and Bon Appetit)

A note on the meat: A classic amatriciana called for diced pork jowl or guanciale. I have never been able to find this in an average American supermarket, pathetic or otherwise. Pancetta works in its place, though. As for quantity, Batali calls for 12 ounces which seems ludicrous, Bon Appetit for 4. Given that most brands sell pancetta in 4 ounce packages, you’re fine to just use 1 package. I used 2 packages which was a bit much; next time I might go for 6 ounces or a package and a half, and save the other 2 ounces for snacking topping salads.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces diced guanciale or pancetta
1 small red onion, cut into 8 wedges and separated
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 28 ounce can peeled, puréed tomatoes, such as San Marzano
Salt, to taste
1 pound bucatini pasta
1/4 cup pecorino, optional

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add red onion and cook until soft and caramelized, about 10-15 minutes, turning as needed. Add pancetta or guanciale to the skillet with the onion and cook until crisp, about 4 minutes.

Add tomato paste and chili flakes, letting fry in the rendered fat until darkened slightly, about 1-2 minutes. Add tomato purée, stirring to incorporate, and reduce heat to low. Let simmer 15-20 minutes until until sauce thickens. Taste for seasoning, adding salt if needed.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil, seasoning with salt and a splash of olive oil. Once water is boiling, add bucatini and cook until al dente, about 1 minute less than the package instructions. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of cooking water.

Add cooked pasta to the skillet with the sauce, stirring to coat. If the sauce seems too thick, add some of the reserved pasta water.

Serve with pecorino if desired.

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