Brooke: Some husbands stash six packs and Fritos in the pantry. Mine cures pig parts…

Jamie: And when all was said and done, you went back for seconds!

Rome is all about the pig.

Prosciutto, guanciale, pancetta, lardo… I could go on but Brooke says I’m supposed to be packing for the trip and checking on my new passport (which still hasn’t arrived in the mail…)

Because we’re officially in Italy countdown mode over here in our corner of the West Village, we’ve been cooking up a few of the classics–our favorites–in hopes of sharing them with you. First on the list is Pasta All’Amatriciana, a specialty of Roman trattorie that can be cooked up in 20-30 minutes–roughly a Parker bath time.

The slightly spicy tomato sauce is studded with rich, chewy morsels of guanciale (cured pork jowl) and tossed with bucatini, a hollow, tube-like spaghetti. These meaty bits are what give an otherwise basic tomato sauce its unique and molto delicioso flavor (sorry, gotta throw in my Italian vocab where I can). The Romans knew better than anyone–the pig can work wonders.

To be molto authentic–or because I’m as crazy as the Romans about pork products–I made my own guaciale. That’s right, our casual Wednesday night supper took over 3 months to make because I cured my own pork jowl in a dark corner of the pantry, above the top shelf stacked with our wedding silver. (I selected the location so Brooke couldn’t see what I was up to.) Despite the make-shift curing cabinet, the guanciale was a big hit! Absolutely no complaints when the bowls of amatriciana hit the table. In fact, Parker demanded seconds.

Pictured Above: Baby Piggie, by Colleen Duffley

Pictured Below: My house-cured guanciale (or ‘Pantry Pig,’ as Brooke calls it)

Bucatini all'Amatriciana
  • 1 lb bucatini or ziti or penne dried pasta
  • 6 ounces guanciale or unsmoked bacon*
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 oz can san marzano tomatoes or whole peeled plum tomatoes
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  1. *If you didn't plan 3 months ahead to make your own guanciale, or can't find them from your butcher or Italian specialty store, unsmoked bacon (available in nearly all grocery stores) or pancetta is an acceptable substitute.
  2. Cut the guanciale or bacon into bite sized pieces and place in a wide-bottomed pot over medium heat. Stir occasional until the fat begins to render, 3-5 minutes. Add the onions and continue cooking until they are translucent and very tender, 5-7 minutes more. Stir in the minced garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the canned tomatoes and bring the mixture to a simmer. As the sauce cooks, break and the mash the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt, pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Leave the sauce to simmer over a low flame while you cook the pasta.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Add the pasta and stir immediately to prevent sticking. Boil the pasta for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the pasta is nearly cooked, but still seems a little tough transfer it to the pot of sauce along with ¼ - ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Increase the heat on the sauce medium and cook the pasta with the sauce, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
  4. Dish the pasta into bowls and top with generous amounts grated parmesan cheese.