150 g (5½ oz) guanciale (cured pork cheek)
1 red chilli
400 g (14 oz) rigatoni, mezze maniche or bucatini pasta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
350 g (12½ oz) fresh cherry tomatoes, chopped (or tinned chopped tomatoes)
50 g (1¾ oz) Pecorino Romano, grated, plus extra for serving
50 g (1¾ oz) Parmigiano Reggiano, grated, plus extra to serve
Heat a large frying pan. Cut the guanciale into chunky strips about 1 cm (½ inch) thick and add them to the pan with the whole chilli. Fry over medium heat for about 2–3 minutes, or until the guanciale becomes dark and crunchy and the fat has melted. Turn off the heat.
Remove the guanciale using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Discard the chilli, but leave the leftover fat in the frying pan.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook for the time indicated on the packet.
Meanwhile, add the olive oil to the leftover guanciale fat, then add the tomatoes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.
Once the pasta is al dente, drain and add to the sauce, along with the cooked guanciale. Mix everything together, then turn off the heat and stir the pecorino and parmigiano through.
Serve with an extra sprinkling of cheese.
Authors Note: The tomato-based amatriciana is a Roman favourite, although its origins lie in the Lazio town of Amatrice, hence the name. In Rome, unlike what might be served up outside of Italy, amatriciana is made with pecorino cheese, tomato and guanciale (cured pork cheek). My friend Eleonora is seven generations Roman (in Rome you aren’t considered Roman unless your bloodline dates back at least seven generations!), and her amatriciana is to die for, yet she defies tradition by adding some Parmigiano Reggiano and a hint of chilli.
You can stick with her version, or play around with this to make it your own.
Serve it with either rigatoni, mezze maniche or bucatini pasta.
Edited Extract from I Heart Rome by Maria Pasquale, published by Smith Street Books, $49.99