Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Re-Vamped Amatriciana

*Author's note: So sorry this is late!  Was having trouble with the pic uploader yesterday, and a recipe post just isn't the same without pictures!

This and authentic carbonara are probably the biggest gifts my two Italian former-roommates have given me, living with them.

One night, after I came home from work, I saw that they were in the kitchen making something. I always want to know what people are eating - especially them, because I love Italian food. So I asked and the one cooking told me she was making arrabbiata, while the one assisting told me they were making amatriciana. They then engaged in a five minute debate in Italian, volume on full blast with arms waving and gestures flailing, to dispute what kind of sauce they were actually cooking...

Well, the assistant won, because after that she turned to me and told me decisively in her lovely, lilting English, "Thees eez pasta all'amatriciana."

I did a quick search on Google and saw why she won. Arrabbiata is spicy tomato sauce, and amatriciana is spicy tomato sauce with bacon, cheese and sometimes onions; sitting there on our counter were diced onions, matchstick jamón and their prized brick of Parmegiano-Reggiano, which they brought from home.

They offered me some, probably out of politeness, and I declined, also out of politeness. But they must have caught the enticed gleam in my eye because they insisted - "Please, Teena, have some of our food" - so I delightedly and gratefully accepted.

It was love at first bite, and I just had to learn how to make it. They gave me some general guidelines, then I tweaked it according to my Asian-North-American tastes, and the following dish was born. I kind of like it more than the original, actually, and I hope it works out well for you too! :D

(By the way, if you're a stickler for authenticity, you might want to turn away - this recipe just might make you cry. :P)

Re-Vamped Amatriciana
Serves 4ish

Ingredients (with alternatives if you can't find certain things where you live)
250g farfalle
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion chopped finely

3 cloves of garlic, minced
125g sliced white mushrooms (try to use fresh instead of canned!)
150g chopped guanciale* bacon OR pancetta OR cured prosciutto/Spanish jamón OR regular bacon
1 400g canned diced tomatoes** OR crushed tomatoes OR tomato sauce

1 1/2 cups red or white wine ***
salt to taste
big shake of dried parsley
1 Italian peperoncino OR big shake of cayenne pepper
big shake of oregano
1/2 tbsp sugar

3/4 cups shredded pecorino cheese**** OR Parmegiano-Reggiano OR Grana Padano

a knob of butter

1.) Cook pasta until al dente and drain. If you're lazy and you want to save dishes, cook the farfalle in a wok/big saucepan, drain the pasta, wipe off the wok and do all the remaining things in that same wok.

2.) Heat the olive oil on medium-low heat in a non-stick pan/your wok and sautee the garlic and onions until everything smells delicious and happy. The onions should be slightly translucent.

3.) Add mushrooms and sauté until they are cooked and the onions are slightly gold.

4.) Push the veggies to a side of the pan/wok and add the bacon to the empty side. Sauté as much of the oil out of the pork as possible. When you've done that and the pork is golden, stir everything around to make sure the pork flavours seep into the veggies.

5.) Add the canned tomatoes to the wok and stir.

6.) When it simmers, add the second clump of ingredients and turn the heat up to medium. Mix everything well, bring the sauce to a boil to reduce the wine, and let it simmer for several minutes. If you have time on your hands, cover it and left it simmer for 15-20 minutes.

7.) Taste the sauce and make adjustments as necessary. When it's just about done, add the cheese and stir quickly so that the cheese integrates completely into the sauce.

8.) Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Add a knob of butter to the mix and toss again to coat. Serve with freshly ground black pepper and more cheese on top, if you'd like.

*Guanciale from Amatrice is the most authentic and traditional - it's an unsmoked bacon made from pork jowl (i.e. pig cheek). If you can't find that, Italian pancetta is the best substitute (as opposed to Spanish pancetta, which is quite different. Living in Madrid, it's much easier for me to find matchstick Spanish jamón and regular bacon, so I've used those with great success as well. You're technically supposed to use non-smoked bacon, but I find that the smokey meats give the flavour a nice depth.

**I prefer chunky sauces because I like the little burst of flavour when I bite into the tomatoes, so I like to use canned diced tomatoes. I also like it when there's just enough sauce to coat the pasta with not too much sauce left on the bottom of the dish, so I only use one can. If you prefer smoother sauces, use crushed tomatoes, and if you like to have a higher sauce:pasta ratio, use two cans, or a can and a half. I also like to use canned tomato products because I prefer to season my own sauce - if there's a ready-made sauce that you're fond of, use that instead!

***You're technically supposed to use white wine, but a nice Chianti would go well, too. I can't afford anything fancy, so I've been using cheap carton wine, and that's been working just fine. :)

****Pecorino from Amatrice is the most authentic, but The Good Shtuff (Parmegiano-Reggiano) works with practically everything. The Good Shtuff is parmesan cheese that's from a specific region in Italy, and it's the best kind of parm out there. If that's too expensive, any general Italian parm would do, as would Grana Padano, the Poor Man/impoverished intern's subsitute. Flavour-wise, it's a long way off, but it's totally acceptable. But before I could find affordable Italian pasta cheese here in Madrid, I used cured Spanish cheese from Oveja, which was nice and gave it a different twist.

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