Saturday dinner: Fettuccine alla Amatricana

IMG_1720“What’s that mean?” The Wife’s question was nothing less than fair.

“Alla Amatricana? From Amatricana. Like El Niño is Spanish for The Niño.” I got the look, so I gave her the more detailed answer.

Amatricana is a tomato-based sauce that takes its name from a city near Rome, Amatrice. An authentic Amatricana is going to have guanicale, a cured bacon make from pork cheek as its base fat and protein. The Americanized version utilizes pancetta and prosciutto in its stead, which is fine as I’m pretty sure I know of only one place around here that has guanicale regularly.


I used San Marzano tomatoes again because the sweetness from the fruit really provides a nice balance to the salt from the meat. This could definitely be done as a weeknight dinner, but is hearty enough for a cold January Saturday.

It’s worth noting that this is what I call a meta recipe, where I looked at five or six different versions to determine what ingredients, and how much of them, to use.

IMG_1715WHAT WORKED: Pancetta and prosciutto. Pancetta and prosciutto always work. Tremendous on their own. So good together.

WHAT DIDN’T: Giada DiLaurentiis’ version. She called for pancetta and cooked ham. Really? A chance to overly annunciate an Italian word (prosciutto) and she passed it up.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: In between disciplining my daughter, who I may have mentioned likes to stand on her chair and try climbing on the kitchen table, The Wife mentioned that it was delicious.


Fettuccine alla Amatricana
Adapted from multiple sources 

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cubed pancetta, browned
  • 1/4 lb. prosciutto, julienned
  • 28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes, in juice, chopped coarsely in the can with a sharp knife
  • 1 lb. fettuccine (any long, thick pasta will do; linguine and angel hair will not), prepared per the directions on the box
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 10-12 basil leaves, julienned

Heat olive oil in large skillet on a medium-high burner. When it comes to a shimmer, add the onions and brown. Stir in the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add the pancetta and any accumulated juices, prosciutto, and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 30-40 minutes. Uncover the pan, stir in the basil and toss with prepared pasta.

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