6.21.10 § 6 Comments
A few nights ago, I came to a realization: I’m much less likely to follow a recipe if/when I’m tired and/or in a bad mood. But for some reason, saying “to hell with it” and just getting into a groove in the kitchen does wonders for my outlook on life. And when the meal turns out to be delicious despite my choice to make it up as I go? Huge feeling of accomplishment. (Too bad my roommate was only there when I got home in a bad mood and had gone out by the time I was sitting happily with a glass of wine and a bowl of some of the best pasta I’ve ever eaten.)
Just like the last time a long day turned into a downward spiral in which I completely ignored a recipe, things started to go wrong as soon as I got to the grocery store. I was searching for bucatini (hollow spaghetti) to make bucatini all’amatriciana. (I’ve been wanting to try this since I saw it on my friend Gabby’s blog. She had some pretty strong things to say about it, including “this is hands down my favorite meal I’ve cooked this year” — with an endorsement like that, how could I not try it?)
Unfortunately, there was no bucatini to be found, even though I was in a specialty store. Frustrated, I grabbed a box of perciatelli, which looked to me like the same thing (spaghetti with holes in it) and hoped that the substitution would be fine. (According to this handy little guide I just found, bucatini and perciatelli are cousins…perciatelli is just thicker.)
I won’t bore you with a play-by-play account of the other changes I made to the recipe, but I will say that another thing I realized about myself while cooking this is that I always add way more garlic than the recipe calls for – in this case I used five cloves rather than two. I think this says a lot about me as a person, because as I threw in those extra cloves, I was thinking how I rarely do things in moderation (I jump into relationships, I drink too much wine, and I always tell people I’ve just met way more about myself than I intend to). But honestly, I think that maybe this is kind of endearing (I hope). The same goes for the pasta – now that I’ve made it with five garlic cloves, I wouldn’t want it with just two.
The calabrian peppers, which I had never used before, add a spiciness to the dish than is much different from the kind you would get using red pepper flakes (which is what the original recipe calls for). Gabby says she decided to add the peppers after eating a restaurant version that included them and I have to say, it was a good call. I think the trip to a specialty store to find them is definitely worth it, but if you can’t find them, I guess red pepper flakes will be okay…
3 tbsp olive oil
4 oz pancetta (or guinciale) cut into ¾” cubes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
8 or 9 spicy calabrian peppers (found in a jar at specialty food stores), chopped
1 28-oz can of whole, peeled tomatoes (San Marzano if you can find them)
1 lb perciatelli (or bucatini)
1 ¼ cups grated Pecorino Romano
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet that has a lid. When it’s hot, throw in the pancetta. Cook until it begins to brown, 6-8 minutes. Next, add the carrots, onion, calabrian peppers, and fresh ground pepper (be generous). Cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots and onions soften, about 6 minutes.
While the carrot mixture is cooking, crush the whole tomatoes in a bowl with your hands. (You can also puree them in their juice if you want, but crushing them is much more fun and will result in a more rustic looking sauce).
Add the garlic to the skillet and cook for another minute, stirring constantly. Then add the tomatoes and their juice. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover, simmering until the sauce thickens, 25-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook your pasta in well-salted water according to the directions on the box. Drain the pasta, reserving about ¼ cup of the water. Toss the pasta with the sauce, adding pasta water as needed. Mix in ¾ of the Pecorino Romano and divide the pasta into bowls. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over pasta and serve hot.