2/01/2006

Fast, Cheap, Easy & Good


Most times I cook where I follow a recipe. Sometimes it’s a recipe that I’ve made many times before, so I can improvise a little bit and fool around some (a little more of this, some of that instead). There are very few dishes that I can put together without consulting anything. Even when I grill a steak I have to look up every time how many minutes for how thick a steak. But there is one dish that I have learned to do by heart: bucatini all’amatriciana.

It sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Well it’s easy! It doesn’t take a lot of time or ingredients, and it’s good enough to serve to guests.

The first thing you have to know is that bucatini is a long, narrow tubular pasta—kind of like a hollow spaghetti. Find something close enough and you’ll be fine. Boil up a pot of water with a tablespoon of olive oil in it (keeps the pasta from sticking together).

While you are waiting for it to boil, dice about a third a pound of pancetta (Italian bacon) into pieces the size of a pencil eraser. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a good-size sauté pan and sauté the pancetta until it is nice and crispy. Then let it drain in a bowl padded with paper towels, keeping the olive oil in the pan.

Now your water should be about ready to boil. Add some salt (adds flavor to the pasta) when it’s at a rolling boil and add the pasta.

Add 2 cups of canned diced tomatoes (almost all of one of the big-size cans) to the olive oil in the sauté pan. Cook it for a few minutes (about 5-7) to let it thicken up a bit. Then lower the heat and add 4 tablespoons of freshly grated romano cheese and about 1 teaspoon of crushed red peppers. Stir on low heat for a little bit, and then add in almost but not all of the crispy pancetta.

Drain the pasta (it should be just about al dente by this time), and mix the pasta and sauce (to make it so that there is a nice coating of sauce on the pasta, but not like it’s swmming in it). Top the dish with the remaining pancetta and some more romano. And that’s it!

That’s what we’re having for dinner tonight. I’ve already crisped up the pancetta, and I’m going to stop at the market the romano and some broccoli rabe as a side dish.

I have made this pasta so many times that I could (almost) make it with one hand tied behind my back. It’s what I’d cook if I was nervous about having people over for dinner, and it’s what I’d make if I was on vacation in some strange house without a cook book.

knifefork

5 comments:

SF Mom of One said...

Now this makes me think I have something to share. Here is my similar "make it in the dark" recipe. I use it on guests because it's the best I've got:

Buy fancy turkey/chicken sausages.
Pick big ole can of tomatoes spiced to match or compliment (italian, cajun).
Haul out can of canelinni from back of pantry.
Dredge bottom of veggie drawer for non-rotten items.

Saute veggies and sausage (sliced on diagonal) in olive oil. Dump tomatoes over and cook it til it looks like sauce. Rinse beans in running water and then dump a cheap balsamic-like vinegar over them. Throw them in the pot and cook it up a bit more.

Lately, in my "whole grains" phase, I have been serving this over spelt. Please don't hate me. :)

The freshening with vinegar thing is my big secret for making canned stuff taste ok.

SF Mom of One said...

P.S.
I am afraid of bacon, even pancetta. Please help.

Deb St-Claire said...

What part about bacon scares you? Nitrates? You can get nitrate-free bacon. I don't know about SF brands, but D'Artagnen is one of the better brands here. If it is the saturated fat, I would say use it just as a garnish to cut down on the amount, and you could try to absorb as much fat as possible with the paper towels. Do you feel the same way about proscuitto?

SF Mom of One said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SF Mom of One said...

Maybe all of the above. I have only encountered prosciutto in restaurants where I didn't think very much. And, Philistine that I am, I like Canadian Bacon on my pizza.

Thank you, cooking goddess and therapist.