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.