Spaghetti all’amatriciana

A small amount of pancetta/bacon adds big flavor to this tomato and onion sauce. An American verison of a classic dish from Amatrice, near Rome.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
  • 4 ounces (1/4 pound) pancetta or bacon, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 28-ounce good-quality canned tomatoes (whole or diced)
  • Crushed red pepper, to taste
  • Grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound spaghetti


  1. Cook pancetta/bacon in a wide saucepan or skillet over medium heat (add a bit of olive oil if it’s sticking to the pan). Pour out all but a couple of tablespoons of the fat.
  2. Add diced onion and cook until soft and transparent.
  3. Add tomatoes, breaking up whole tomatoes with a spoon. Season with crushed red pepper to taste.
  4. Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and break down into the sauce. Remove from heat.
  5. Cook spaghetti in a large pot of salted water (salty like the sea), using tongs or a spoon to separate the noodles. Cook until al dente – spaghetti should still have a chewy bite at the center. Reserve a cup of the cooking water and drain the rest.
  6. Toss spaghetti with sauce, adding a bit of the cooking water if necessary (this helps smooth distribution of sauce with the pasta). Serve hot with grated cheese.

Serves four.


  • Traditionally this dish uses guanciale, an unsmoked pork jowl bacon.
  • In Italy, this would be a first course, followed by a second course of meat or fish. So the Italian sauce, which would use fewer tomatoes drained of juice, is lighter and more spare. For American tastes, this is a heartier pasta, with more sauce. Use six ounces of pancetta or bacon for an even sturdier meal.
  • This sauce keeps well in the refrigerator, so you can make it a day or two ahead of time.

Here’s a link back to the post and pictures.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Melissa DeLong 19 December 2011 at 11:39 am

Perfect for a winter night!


Brooke Rakow 18 June 2014 at 1:18 pm

Father’s day dinner was a hit thanks to this recipe. So easy and delicious.


cg 19 June 2014 at 2:59 pm

brooke, you are so awesome. you should be my recipe tester, you try everything! xoxo


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