Amatriciana is the beloved signature sauce of the Italian town of Amatrice, which was razed in an earthquake on August 24. Restaurateurs throughout Italy are showing support for the people of Amatrice by donating 1 or 2 euros to Red Cross relief efforts for every Amatriciana dish sold. For those outside Italy, I offer the recipe below. Cooking up this meal — praying while you work — and contributing materially to relief efforts seem like great ways to keep the suffering people of central Italy close to your heart.

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I’ve never been much of a cook. Opening a jar of sauce and pouring it over pasta was about as sophisticated as I got. For most of my adult life I ate dinner out, that is, until I met my husband. 

The week before I met my husband, I was living in Rome and developed a hunger for Mexican food. At the time, there was one Mexican restaurant in the Eternal City, but few recommended it, so I had to settle for a platter of nachos at the local Hard Rock Cafe (dragging my friend Mary Shovlain with me). Enter my future husband, a man who cannot do anything less than 110%. The night we met, he promised that the best Mexican food in Rome was in his kitchen. And he was right. And then he made me pasta. And then pizzas cooked at wood-burning ovens. Meal after meal, he won my heart over with his charm (and cooking).

The recipe below for Amatriciana and rigatoni was part of my husband’s courting package. I think I had three plates of it the first time he made it. It is now a family favorite. The best way to make it is to invite friends over a few hours before dinner time, set out the antipasti, pour the prosecco, and designate a few guests to grate cheese. Buon Appetito!

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Amatriciana and Rigatoni

Graciously shared by Msgr. Christopher Nalty, who has added his own Cajun flair to the recipe

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz of Rigatoni pasta
  • 16 oz Pancetta - cut into moderately sized chunks
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic - chopped coarsely
  • ½ cup good red wine
  • 1 red onion - medium size - chopped coarsely
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • Dash Worcestershire Sauce
  • Tony Chachere's Seasoning Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • ½ cup packed freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (more is always better)

Preparation:

  1. Fry up in a large fry pan: the Pancetta and red pepper flakes (couple of shakes – more if you like it some heat) in approx. 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
  2. Once the pancetta has turned a golden brown/crispy, deglaze the frying pan with the wine. Then, add the chopped red onion, the chopped garlic.  Bring the whole sauce to a gentle simmer and allow it to continue boiling until the garlic has been poached and the onion has been cooked. The liquid should, by now, have been reduced by about half. Once cooked, add more olive oil (approx. 5 tablespoons).
  3. Add the Tomato Sauce.  Return the sauce to a simmer.
  4. Add a dash of Worcestershire Sauce, a good amount of Tony Chachere's Seasoning Salt, and black pepper (to taste).
  5. Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. 
  6. Drain pasta, but save ½ to ¾ cup of the boiling, starchy pasta water. 
  7. Immediately return the drained pasta to the pot, adding in succession, first, the pancetta in its sauce; then, the grated Pecorino cheese. 
  8. As necessary, add little by little to the pot, the starchy pasta water (it probably will require only about half of the quantity that was saved).

Makes 5 servings.