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« From Capri - Lemon Cake | Main | Italy »

From Rome - Bucatini all' Amatriciana


This is the first in a series of recipes I'm going to be doing for you that are inspired from our recent trip to Italy. This has long been an absolute favorite dish of mine to make, but having it in Italy again was just beyond great. This dish, like Cacio e Pepe,  is a very common pasta dish that you will find on so many menus in Rome. It's the best of Italian cooking, in my opinon - it has just a handful of great ingredients, is easy to make but totally gutsy in its flavor.

The Roman cooking purists will point out that you must use guanciale (cured pork jowl) in this dish and yes, that's true - in Rome, that is what will be used to make this dish there.  But guanciale is not easy to find here and so I make this dish with pancetta.  Guanciale is fattier and richer than pancetta but pancetta makes a fine substitute.  

Bucatini is also the traditional pasta shape that you will see this dish made with in Rome, although spaghetti is the pasta that it is made with in Amatrice, the town that this dish originates from.  Bucatini is like a very fat spaghetti, but hollow in the center. If you can't find bucatini, feel free to make this with spaghetti or even rigatoni.  I do it all the time. If you've never eaten bucatini before, be aware that it takes a little skill and I would recommend tucking a napkin into your shirt when you first try it! It can be a little springy and slurpy. 

This a great "pantry dish" because you can make it last minute with just the ingredients you have already on hand. I always have canned tomatoes and cheese and I always have pancetta in my freezer.  I will buy it a pound at a time and bring it home and cut it up into 3-ounce portions and freeze them.  Three ounces seems to be the size I most often use in recipes.  The pancetta defrosts so quickly after you cube it that it's never a problem to make something last minute with it. I don't buy it in slices - I always buy it whole because I like to cube it up when I cook with it most of the time and slices are just way too thin to produce the right "bite". 

I had this dish several times in Rome, but I must say my favorite version was at da Gigetto, an excellent trattoria located in the Jewish Ghetto neighborhood in Rome. They cooked it just the way I like it - not too saucy with the sauce almost being a bit dry.  It was an intense, incredible dish:

The reason we were at da Gigetto was to sample a special way that they prepare artichokes there - whole and deep fried.  I had seen this in a video a long time ago that Gourmet produced on Italian Home Cooking, featuring a woman interviewing great cooks around Italy.  I thought, "the next time I go to Rome, I'm going to eat there and have those fried artichokes".  After we sat down in the outdoor cafe and ordered our food, I look up and who walks over and sits down just a couple of tables from us but the woman in the video!  I turned to my husband and told him who she was.  I thought that was so funny.  So I went over and introduced myself and told her that she was the reason we were sitting at that restaurant. Anyway, she is Elizabeth Minchilli - a food writer/publisher/architectural expert/food guide - who lives in Rome. She even has an iPhone App - "Eat Rome", which I immediately downloaded.  What can't this woman do?   And if you're into beautiful design, check out her books.  She even has a house in Umbria you can rent that's gorgeous. Anyway, if you ever need dining help when you're in Rome, she's the person to consult.  It was fun to bump into her.

artichokes at da Gigetto

Even though Amatriciana sauce has just a few ingredients, everyone seems to have their own version.  Some call for onions, some don't.  Some recipes add wine, other do not.  Some mix Pecorino and Parmigiano cheeses.  Some say absolutely never add black pepper.  This is just my version the way I like it.  I hope you do, too. 

chili pepper from Amalfi

Bucatini all'Amatriciana

for a printable recipe click here

the secret to this dish is to not have it be too "saucy" - you want to simmer off a lot of the moisture from the tomatoes and leave just a thick sauce.  The little bit of pasta water that will cling to the pasta when you transfer it to the sauce in the fry pan will be enough to thin out the sauce a little. 


  • 3 ounces pancetta, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon red hot chili pepper (or to taste - mine was very fresh and hot)
  • 1/4 cup of dry white wine 
  • 1 cup canned whole tomatoes and juice, crushed (use San Marzano if you can)*
  • 8 ounces Bucatini pasta (or spaghetti)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese 
  • salt to taste 



Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil.

In a large fry pan, cook the pancetta over medium heat for several minutes until crisp but not brown.  Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon and reserve, but leave the fat in the pan.  Add the olive oil, onions and chili pepper and cook for several minutes until the onions are just soft but not browning. 

Add the white wine and cook for one minute.  Add the tomatoes (I just use my hand to crush them) and the juice and reserved cooked pancetta and cook over medium low heat, uncovered, for 15 minutes.  You want most of the liquid to cook off. 

Meanwhile, cook the pasta until still a little firm.  With tongs, remove the pasta from the boiling water and place right into the tomato mixture. Thoroughly coat the pasta with the tomato mixture.  Turn off heat and add the cheese, tossing well.  Taste for salt and add if needed.  Serve immediately and pass extra Pecorino around. Be sure to serve a big red wine with this dish.  

 *  tip - If you cannot find or do not want to buy San Marzano tomatoes, I have found that Muir Glen canned whole tomatoes are pretty good.  There are many canned tomatoes that are not.  San Marzanos are going to have a richness of flavor you won't get with other tomatoes.  They usually are found in 28 ounce size cans.  In a recipe like this, where you just use 1 cup of them, I just freeze the remainder for another use.  They freeze just fine.  

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Reader Comments (69)

Hi, I just wanted to say that the minute I saw this article and those delicious Bucatini all'Amatriciana, my stomach went nuts, also three things went thru my mind! First my trip to Italy last year, my cooking skills and my all time favorite Italian restaurant in Florida

And since my cooking skills are the worst, am gonna have go it some this weekend at Nino´s.

May 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAubrey

I have made this a couple of times and it is wonderful! One of my favorite dishes and so glad to make it myself.

May 30, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkim

I make this recipe once a week! Each time I double the recipe, because the recipe, as stated, isn't enough for 2 of us used as our main meal. (we have enough left over for lunch the next day for one person) I also add a salad, My husband and I LOVE this recipe, and would consider this one of our favorites!!!

July 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercindy

Love reading all this - especially because I have all the ingredients. One question for you all. Why don't we have an Eataly in Houston?

November 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMargoC

This is my husband's favorite meal from Rome, and mine is Cacio e Pepe. Thanks for the recipe, we look forward to many great dinners and bringing back memories or Rome here in Chicago.

June 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJean

There's no onion in the original pasta amatriciana from Italy!!! It's a totally different dish from the real one:

February 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVeru

From The Italian Dish:

Veru: Thanks for sharing, but many Italian cooks include onion in this recipe, including Marcella Hazan, Gennaro Contaldo, Mario Batali, Antonio Carlucci, Lidia Bastianich and many others. Italians are forever arguing over who has the most authentic recipe for something. You can certainly leave out the onion if you like!

February 29, 2016 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

I'm italian and i don't use onions too in this dish, but there're not fixing rule in our recipes.
I like read all the comments.

March 11, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

I have to tell you, I just love this recipe. I make it quite often and it's an easy family favorite. Very tasty!! :)

April 4, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSkye

italian t-shirts online
Upon arrival Italy, I usually eat pizza.
Beloved Italian nation, the flag has always been a symbol of everything

Checking on recipes found this blog which I found interesting.
It doesn't need me to tell you that the town of Amatrice where this sauce comes from was virtually destroyed in the earthquake last Wednesday. I am making a ton of this and selling it for £5 a portion to raise money for the area. Maybe your readers would be interested in doing the same.
All the best

August 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Kirchem

Made it..ate it.... loved it ... living in Las Vegas it's like a meal streight from Italy Or (Brooklyn,NY) GREAT!! .....Phenomenal Sunday dinner you will absolutely love....Bon appetito....

February 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCHARLES MC KENNA

I love your recipes. Particularly the simple ones. I wanted to chime in regarding tomatoes. I owned a piazza restaurant for 7 years and learned quite a bit about canned tomatoes in that time. To be pointed, buy Escalon 6-in-1 tomatoes which are readily available in on Amazon in 28 ounce cans.

Tomatoes are a North American vegetable. They didn't exist in Europe until the 18th Century. So using American Tomatoes is arguably more "authentic" if that's the cooks aim. Anyway, there are (in my opinion and in the opinion of those in the know) precisely two places to grow the best tomatoes - the San Joaquin Valley of California, and the San Marzano region of Italy - they're climates and soil are incredibly similar. As some pointed out, fraud in food exporting has been rampant in Italy for decades. You are very unlikely to get a consistently good tomato from them. Of the San Joaquin valley tomatoes, there are two major companies making FRESH PACKED tomato cans - Escalon and Stanislaus. Both are excellent - they take tomatoes off the vine and can them. That's it. I choose Escalon for two reasons - 1 they are sold in 28 ounce cans (Stanislaus is only in #10) and Stanislaus adds citric acid as a preservative.

There simply is no tomato in the supermarkets that even come close. I presume this is because the best tomatoes are sold to commercial suppliers and/or tomatoes in the grocery store have more additives to give them a longer shelf life. But I promise you will not be disappointed. I fully understand the romanticism behind "Italian" tomatoes. So just tell people their Italian Style tomatoes when they ask :)


Patrick Cuezze

March 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick Cuezze

From The Italian Dish:

Patrick: Thanks for the tips on the tomatoes! As for the San Marzano tomatoes from the Naples region in Italy, , they grow in the volcanic soil from Mt. Vesuvius and that makes them have a unique flavor. Just as Vidalia onions have a unique taste because of the soil they grow in and grapes for wine have a distinct flavor because of where they are grown, the San Marzano from Naples are unique. When I went to Sicily, the produce that is grown at the base of Mt. Etna was incredible because of that volcanic soil.

March 30, 2017 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Patrick.... really don't mean to be argumentative or negative but your post contains several bits of information which are inaccurate. So, just for the record......
Despite the 1893 US Supreme Court decision categorizing the tomato as a vegetable, technically and
..... more accurately.... it is actually a fruit.
The tomato is NOT a North America "fruit".
It's origins are from South & Central America; having been cultivate by the Incas and Aztecs.
It did NOT first appear in Europe in the 18th century.
The tomato was brought to Europe by the Spanish explorers much earlier than that and eventually showed up in Italian cooking as early as the mid-1500s –– in the 14th century.

March 31, 2017 | Unregistered Commentersabino

Sabino - No worries. It's a cooking blog for god's sake!!

1. Regarding whether a tomato is a fruit v. vegetable, I'm not quite sure how that's germane to the debate..but: First, the delineation between a fruit and a vegetable is a human construct and thus subject to our definitions and abstraction. More importantly, you are incorrect about the Supreme Court holding in Nix. The Court, in fact, ruled that the Tomato was a vegetable (for the purposes of the lawsuit). The Court held that the tomato is a vegetable as the term is commonly used. In dicta, the noted that although, botanically speaking, it is a "fruit", it is referred to as a vegetable more often than it is not. Feel free to read up on it here :

2. You are correct that nightshade species from which tomatoes derive was indigenous to South America. But it is the Mexican Tribes (Aztecs and Incas) that cultivated it as food and bred the green nightshade vegetable into the red thing we know as a tomato. So while it is true that the plant was found in South America, its culinary genesis was Mexico. Again, not sure why this matters to my point that North American Tomatoes are "authentic", but.....

3. I probably overreached here by a bit. But I HATE arguments about the authenticity of food. I think its ridiculous. We should eat what's delicious. But if you insist on eating only "authentic" Italian food, you can't mean anything with tomatoes because tomatoes weren't available to the average italian until the 1700's. I do note that I think you are confused about "Century" vs. date range as you appear to put the 1500's in the "14th Century". Obviously, Europeans didn't come to the Americas until the 1490's. Trade routes took decades to establish. And, somewhat contrary to your assertion, tomatoes didn't really appear in italian cooking with any significance until the 17th Century. The became ubiquitous in the 18th Century. I encourage to review the history of the tomato in Italy here

All this to say, EAT WHAT IS DELICIOUS. Don't worry about authenticity. Don't worry about being "faithful" to originals. The culinary arts are (or should be) a melting pot. Adhering to strict guidelines about what is right and wrong in cooking ruins it as an art form. Learn techniques and recipes from others, but don't robotically duplicate them. And don't pick a fight about tomatoes with a Lawyer turned Pizza shop owner with to much time on his hands :)



April 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick Cuezze

This is my new favorite pasta dish!. My husband & I traveled with Go Get Lost (a travel agency) & friends this fall to Tuscany & fell in love with all the different pasta dishes we tried (it was a wine & foodie tour). We were having an after Italy party & I made this for our group (followed the recipe exactly & it is so easy) & we all loved it. I have made it since then, & will continue to have it on a regular basis, it is so easy & kept fine warming in a crock pot for the party. Thank you so much for this great find!

November 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

This is the BEST dish!!!! I made it a handful of times a couple years ago and never forgot about it and when I came back to your website I couldn’t find it and I was so upset. But I found it again!!! Thank you for sharing, I love so many of your recipes!!

April 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

Bought a dried package of the mixture in Sorrento and it turned out great.
Would you know were I could buy the same here
Thanks Joe

July 31, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Aceto

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