One day while
wasting time perusing all the lovely photos on Pinterest I came across a pasta dish that looked pretty basic. Good but basic. Pasta All’Amatriciana it was called. Could it be that I’ve been totally missing out on some magical new way to combine tomatoes and pasta? I set out to find what makes it so different. But boy, oh boy did googling for recipes and info bring up a bunch of pretentiousness. Can this dish possibly be made correctly outside of Italy? What about smoked vs cured pork jowls? Pork jowls vs pancetta? Is it really the same dish if you use pancetta or does it change into something that’s “not authentic” ? Must the tomatoes always be heirloom and organic? What about the onion? Is it an authentic ingredient or not?
Really. Who cares? This is really just another variation on what is, for the most part, as a reader so aptly described it, peasant food. Dishes that started as simple food made from locally-available ingredients. Apparently Italian cured pork jowls from a gourmet butcher shop are high-end fancy cuisine. I dunno, seems a lot like the hog jowls that this Southern girl knows. Reminds me of grits vs polenta. Aren’t they about the same? Both cheap, simple and filling.
Does a dish taste always better if it’s more expensive or more difficult to prepare or has a fancier name? Nah. In this case itt’s still just pasta and tomatoes with a little pork thrown in. Besides, who gets to define “authentic” and why does it always matter? For so many dishes there are as many variations as there are cooks. Who’s to say one family’s traditional recipe is any less authentic than another? I like good ingredients and good food as much as the next person but sometimes it seems like the real point, enjoying what you eat, gets lost in the snobbery. Does it taste good? Then eat it. Or, as my late brother-in-law said he’d name his imaginary restaurant, “Sit down, shut up and eat.”
Anyway, this is my simple and easy and tasty version of Pasta All’Amatriciana. Feel free to mix it up as you like. And call it whatever you like. I’m sure it’ll be good!
- Fettucine (or your favorite pasta shape), 1 pound
- Olive Oil
- Pancetta, 1/3 pound
- Onion, 1 medium
- Garlic, 4 to 6 cloves
- Diced Tomatoes, 2 14 0z cans
- Crushed Red Pepper
- Dry White Wine, 1 cup
- Fresh Parmesan or Asiago, 1/3 cup grated and more for the table
Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan. Add the pancetta and cook it over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until it’s crispy. Using a slotted spoon remove it from the pan and set it aside.
Drain the fettucine when it’s still slightly firm and dump it into the tomato mixture, along with the pancetta and cheese. Stir gently over low heat until the cheese is melted, the cheese is melted and everything is well-mixed.