Across Houston and other major U.S. cities this week like New York and Los Angeles, restaurateurs are donating a portion of proceeds from the sale of Amatriciana to earthquake recovery in Central Italy.
It’s a classic dish of central Italy named after the village of Amatrice, which was devastated in last week’s seismic event.
And in Italy, chefs and restaurateurs are doing the same. In Turin, for example, last week chefs served 7,000 dishes of Amatriciana and raised nearly 50,000 euros for relief efforts.
The dish is named after the village because Amatrice is a historic center for the production of guanciale, cured pig’s jowl — the key ingredient in Amatriciana.
Guanciale is similar to prosciutto or pancetta, for example: Prosciutto is made using the pig’s thigh and pancetta is made using the pig’s belly.
But where the latter two have a more delicate and nuanced flavor, guanciale has a strong rich flavor and is more compact and chewy. And that’s what makes it so perfect for sautéeing.
For the preparation of Amatriciana, you sautée finely diced guanciale in a pan until it becomes slightly crunchy (just slightly, depending on the desired texture).
You then add tomato and seasoning and simmer until the flavor of the guanciale has been incorporated into the sauce (it doesn’t take long).
The sauce is typically served over bucatini (long noodles with a hole that runs through the length of the noodle). But in Rome, it’s also common to find it served over rigatoni (the other go-to pasta shape in Roman trattorie).
No matter what pasta you use (and there are infinite variations of the dish), it’s delicious: The saltiness and the fattiness of the guanciale give the tomato a rich, unmistakable flavor.
If you can’t find guanciale at your specialty gourmet market, you can use thick-cut prosciutto or even bacon to achieve a similar (but not quite identical) flavor.