Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sugo all'Amatriciana

Well it looks like I will be posting my first recipe in months. I've been developing my French repertoire and all that, but writing and organizing a new post here or there just isn't paying the dividends it used to. So, with that said here is a recipe that I think is worth keeping in mind for future use. (Actually, if I remember correctly I make this about twice a year, especially when I want a simple red pasta dish without all the heavy lifting.) Usually it is nothing to go crazy about, but I did make a pretty good version of it this weekend.

Since I am pressed for time I am going to tell you to go to Wikipedia and read about the history of this pasta sauce. (Found here.) The sauce is literally centuries old, and it laid the foundation for many of the foods currently offered at your local Italian restaurant. The food history is really cool to me and I get why it would make your eyes roll, but it’s worth mentioning for those out there interested.

The part we can all appreciate about this recipe is its simplicity. In about 30 minutes you can have a quality pasta dish made from scratch. Yes, there are pasta dishes that can be made in this amount of time too. However, this recipe is basically how they made it almost 500 years ago, barring any development in technology and differences in serving size. I don't think you can say that about mostly all of we make at home anymore. Another distinct advantage is this sauce's ability to mold to what you already have in the kitchen. Let’s talk more about that:
  • Meat: This is the most flexible part of the recipe. Use drippings from roast pork as well as a few scraps to make this an intensely original version. For a more modern-authentic recipe we can use guanicale. If you're in a real pickle you can use pancetta or unsmoked bacon too. 
  • Tomatoes: I really like to use Pomi brand tomatoes when making this type of sauce, but an equal weight of fresh tomatoes that have been seeded, peeled, and crushed works as well. (They do take a lot of time to process though, so I use canned/boxed tomatoes.) I should note that when I say an equal weight this means an equal weight after you processed them. When you are at the store buy about 20% more tomatoes by weight if you go this route. 
  • Pasta: Buy DeCecco brand please. Once you get the brand right you can experiment with what pasta shape you'll use. I like bucatini, but spaghetti and all those long thin pastas will do. Penne is quite nice as well because of its textural quality.

Sugo all'Amatriciana:
1/4 pound meat (see "Meat" bullet point above)
1/2-3/4 cup dry white wine
26-32oz canned tomatoes, chopped
1/2 pound of pasta
1/2 cup pasta water
Pecorino Cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

1. First, get your salted water boiling and throw the pasta in once it is at the boil. While you cook your sauce keep testing the pasta until it is slightly less cooked than normal. Reserve a half cup or more of the pasta water and drain it at this point, then toss the pasta with the smallest amount of oil needed to coat the pasta.
2. While all of the above is happening you can also cook your sauce. Start by cooking the meat over medium heat in a very large pan to render the fat. Once the fat is rendered kick the heat up to high and get a little color on it.
3. When the meat is colored add the wine and let this boil down until reduced three quarters. Add your tomatoes and bring to the boil, then reduce to a quick simmer.
4. When the pasta is cooked add the water to the sauce and bring back to the boil over high heat. Slightly reduce your heat and evaporate some of the water added.
5. Throw the pasta in the sauce to coat and bring the heat to medium, remembering to lightly stir the pasta as it completes its cooking.
6. When the pasta is cooked remove it from the heat and add some pecorino to flavor and lightly thicken the sauce. Plate the pasta with more pecorino and serve.

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