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Roman Pasta

Updated: Feb 9

Relive your travels to Rome with pasta all' amatriciana, a traditional Italian pasta made with guanciale (cured pork cheek), pecorino romano cheese and tomato. Because guanciale is hard to find outside of Italy, pancetta (cured pork belly) is often used with some variations. Regional dishes are often disputed among Italians from casalinga (homestyle) cooks to professional chefs. Pasta all’amatriciana is no exception.

One of the four main pasta dishes to have when eating in Rome (the others being cacio e pepe, carbonara, and gricia), pasta all'amatriciana is said to have originated in the town of Amatrice, about two hours outside of Rome. The original recipe (cheese, guanciale and pasta) was a shepherds dish made over an open fire. Over time tomatoes were added and Rome claimed it as its own adding onions and olive oil. By the19th century amatriciana became the poster pasta of Rome. Francesco Leonard, a cook at the court of Pope Pius VII furthered the gastronomic connection between the amatriciana recipe and the city of Rome whose popularity remains today.

Roman amatriciana relies on the grease (and salt) from the guanciale (pork jowl) to flavor the pasta. Although pork jowl has an especially rich, sweet porky flavor and a buttery texture, it

has a higher meat-to-fat ratio than traditional pancetta or back bacon. To achieve a similar flavor saute pancetta in1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil for 7-8 minutes until the pancetta is slightly crisp. This will provide the unctuous flavor and mouth feel of the original recipe without the high fat content with the benefits of antioxidants and polyphenols found in extra virgin olive oil.

Look for a good quality extra virgin oil from Lazio to add authenticity to this dish.

Spaghetti all'amatriciana


  • 1 pound toothsome spaghetti like Matt Monogano from Pastificio Felicetti

  • 1 tablespoon Colli Etruschi Roma extra virgin olive oil

  • 6 ounces pancetta or guanciale

  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or to taste

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

  • 1 28 ounce can plum tomatoes hand crushed or blender pulsed

  • 1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

  • coarse sea salt and pepper to taste

  • 1 cup of cooked pasta water


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

  • Heat a large pan to medium and saute the pancetta in the extra virgin olive oil for 7-8 minutes until slightly crisp. Remove about half of the pancetta to a plate and set aside.

  • Next, add the crushed red pepper to the pan and saute for 30 seconds.  Add the white wine and cook until reduced by about half.

  • Cook pasta to 1 minute less than al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water.

  • Next, add the crushed tomatoes to the pan and cook on medium until the sauce starts to bubble.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and let the sauce cook uncovered while boiling the pasta.

  • Remove pasta from water with a pasta spider ( long handle strainer) and add the pasta to the sauce and cook until the pasta reaches al dente (about 1 minute). Stir well and make sure the pasta is absorbing the sauce.

  • Remove the pan from the heat and lightly stir in the pecorino. Add a small amount of pasta water to loosen the sauce if it is too dry. Serve topping with the reserved crispy pancetta, more pecorino and freshly ground black pepper. About 4 servings.

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