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Bucatini all’Amatriciana with Guanciale and Pecorino Romano

Inspired by a Lidia Bastianich recipe, I decided to make a classic, spicy pork pasta called Bucatini all’Amatriciana.   This pasta dish is served with bucatini, a tubular spaghetti-like pasta that goes well with thick sauces.  However, the star of the show is Guanciale, a salt-cured pork jowl (cheek). It’s similar to pancetta (which is made from pork belly), but not as lean, and has a more ‘delicate’ texture than pancetta.  The other key ingredient is Pecorino Romano, a hard, salty Italian sheep’s milk cheese.  I used a Pecorino Romano called Moliterno which was a bit milder, and infused with Black Truffle Paste which gave this meal an added dimension.

Pasta all'Amatriciana

Pasta all'Amatriciana with Guanciale and Pecorino Romano

The result looks much like a typical spaghetti with tomato sauce, but it’s anything but.  Very rich and luxurious in flavor, a hearty comfort food for those cold winter evenings.  Much enjoyed with a medium to full bodied wine like a Valpolicella.  Click the link for the complete recipe and HD instructional video.

Bucatini all’Amatriciana with Guanciale and Pecorino Romano

High Definition Video Presented Here:

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves: 6 people

There are two key ingredients in this dish which help it stand out above other tomato-based pasta sauces.  First is the Guanciale, an unsmoked Italian bacon prepared with pig’s jowl or cheeks, with a flavor that is stronger than other pork products, such as pancetta, and its texture is more ‘delicate’.  The downside is that it’s rather expensive and hard to find.  In the Toronto area, you can get it at the Cheese Boutique.



The second main ingredient is quality Pecorino Romano cheese.  Pecorino Romano is made from sheep’s milk. It is straw-white in color and has a sharper flavor than other traditional Italian cheeses.  Note its salty flavor requires adjusting the use of salt, as the Pecorino Romano provides significant sodium to the meal.


  • 1 pound bucatini pasta
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Large or 4 small yellow onions, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 glug of extra-virgin olive oil plus more serving
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced sliver thin
  • 1 lb of guanciale (about 8 thick-cut strips) cut crosswise in 1/2-inch pieces (use pancetta as a substitute if you can’t get guanciale)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
  • 2 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Coarse sea salt (to taste)
  • Parsley or Basil leaves for garnish

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Heat a large pot of  water with 1 tablespoon of salt to cook the bucatini (per package instructions)
  2. Heat a large frying pan or deep saute pan and add 1/2 cup of water to the pan.  Saute onions in the water until they are softened and water has evaporated.
  3. Add olive oil to the pan and then add in garlic, guanciale, and red pepper flakes.  Saute until garlic is softened and guanciale has rendered down.
  4. Place the canned tomatoes in a bowl and crush them with your hands to ensure they have a sauce-like consistency.  Add tomatoes to the pan and let simmer for a few minutes to allow the tomatoes to incorporate in with the existing ingredients.
  5. Add the cooked bucatini pasta noodles and a little bit of the pasta water into the pan and simmer down and cook together.
  6. Remove the pan off the heat and add 1 cup of pecorino romano.  Mix into the dish.  Taste the pasta and if additional salt is required, add a bit of coarse sea salt.  Do not add pepper, as the crushed red pepper should provide enough heat.
  7. Garnish or parsley or basil and sprinkle additional pecorino romano on to of each serving.


Wine Pairing:

This is a hardy and slightly spicy pasta recipe.  A proper pairing is a medium to full-bodied wine, such as a Valpolicella Classico Superiore or an Amarone Della Valpolicella. I happened to have this Corte Giara Valpolicella on hand, so that’s what I served this dish with. It turned out to be a reasonable pairing.

Ripasso Valpolicella

Ripasso Valpolicella

This wine is available at liquor stores, and I purchased it at Ontario’s LCBO for a modest $17.

Wine Tasting Notes:

Rich aromas of black plum, raspberry, and strawberry join with earthy notes of tar and licorice. The flavours echo the aromas, repeating on the palate through a dry, flavourful finish.  Some Corte Giara vintages have scored – 89+. (Stuart Tobe,

Other recommended wine pairing:

Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella: A deep, glossy looking red-garnet hue. Great typicity on the nose, which offers aromas of black cherry, almonds and very fine dark chocolate. A commanding palate, with a very classic texture, rich yet smooth with a good length. $44

Cesari Amarone della Valpolicella: Deep ruby colour; dried cherries, plums, herb and tobacco aromas; dry, medium to full bodied; rich flavours plums, dried red berries and spice; long finish. $35

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