If you watched Anthony Bourdain's show No Reservations in Rome, then you know that Italians fight over where this sauce originated. Some say Amatrice (by Abruzze), and others dispute it was invented by the Romans, in Rome.
You should also know that people from Rome use an onion in this bacon and tomato sauce, but Italians from other regions would never think to use an onion in their Amatriciana, sacrilege!, sort of like the unspoken Italian rule: "NO CHEESE ON FISH". So, there's another argument for you.
Mario uses an onion, so I did too.
Another touchy rule about this sauce is you must use guanciale. Cured pork jowls (or pig's cheeks, as I like to call it).
Good luck finding guanciale. It is a real treat to eat, and I only seem to indulge when it's found in a dish at one of Batali's NYC restaurants. You can mail order it (Batali's dad owns a salumi co. in Seattle which sells it) if you like, but I chose good old American bacon (Oscar Meyerino to be exact) instead, and I cut the chunk of bacon while still frozen, so I could cut it into slivers.
This was one of the best quick tomato sauces I have made at home. It calls for bucatini, which is the traditional pasta to serve with Amatriciana. Bucatini are thick spaghetti strands with holes down the center.
The second time I made this sauce I served it over linguine (because I was out of bucatini), and we both agreed that we liked the linguine better with the sauce! HEATHEN!
Ok, enough information and banter about a 30 minute tomato sauce. Here is the recipe.
I chose a simple recipe from Mario Batali's book Molto Italiano. Every recipe I have tried from this book has been terrific. It's a shame I only use it during the winter months.
This was one of the best quick tomato sauces I have ever made.
Bucatini (or Linguine!) Amatriciana: (adapted from Molto Italiano)
1/4 cup EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
1/4 lb. of GUANCIALE, PANCETTA or good bacon cut into slivers (I cut it while frozen)
1 red onion, cut lengthwise in half and then into ¼-inch-thick half-moons
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2-1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (it depends on how much heat you like)
28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes
1 pound bucatini
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, and add 2 tablespoons salt.
Meanwhile, in a 10- to 12-inch sauté pan, combine the olive oil, garlic, bacon and red pepper flakes; set over low heat and cook until the onion is softened and the guanciale or bacon has rendered much of its fat, about 12 minutes.
Drain all but ¼ cup of the fat out of the pan. Add the tomatoes, breaking up with the back of a spoon. Turn up the heat, and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and allow to simmer about 20 minutes until sauce looks like it is coming together.
While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta in the boiling water for about a minute less than the package directions, until still very firm; drain.
Add the pasta to the simmering sauce and toss for about 1 minute to coat. Divide the pasta among four heated bowls and serve immediately, topped with freshly grated Pecorino.