Once exclusively a dish of the Abruzzi, this delicious bacon and tomato sauce has been adopted by Rome and the whole region. Traditionally it is eaten with bucatini (thick, hollow spaghetti), but you can use any kind of dried durum wheat pasta. You will never get two locals to agree upon the correct ingredients for this sauce: countless kitchens have resounded with arguments over whether garlic should be included or not, or how much chilli matters to the flavour...
Originally the dish comes from the town of Amatrice, where they happen to be very good at raising and butchering pigs - hence the most vital ingredient for the authenticity of the dish, a special kind of bacon called guanciale. If you cannot find guanciale, use ordinary, good-quality streaky bacon instead - although most good Italian delicatessens will order guanciale for you, if you give them enough notice.
Fry the cubed guanciale or bacon in the olive oil until the fat is translucent and running. Scoop out the bacon and keep warm on one side. Add the onion and chilli to the pan and fry for 6 minutes or so. Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente - firm to the bite. (Check the packet for cooking times, as brands vary.)
Add the bacon cubes to the tomato sauce, stir and adjust the seasoning. Drain the pasta and return it to the pan. Pour on the sauce, add the cheese, mix and toss together very thoroughly. Arrange on a warmed platter and serve at once.
© 1990 Valentina Harris. All rights reserved.