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 out of Italy 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.

bucatini all'amatriciana




  • 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.

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