It’s hard to find guanciale in the states, but at Altomonte’s we make it. It’s cured pork jowls and it adds a very specific flavor and authenticity to this dish. If you can’t find it use pancetta. We also make our own fresh bucatini pasta, just be aware fresh pasta cooks fast, so you need to work quickly to prepare a perfect al dente dish. If you cannot find bucatini, substitute perciatelli or thick spaghetti like spaghettoni. Always use real, Italian tomatoes we love the wonderful Valgri brand, also the tomatoes of Vesuvius region work great.
- ½ pound chunk guanciale
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 ½ pounds canned Valgri tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound fresh bucatini
- ½ cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
- Cut the guanciale into pieces less than one-half inch thick. Place in a saucepan with the olive oil and fry over low heat for 15 minutes, until all the fat has been rendered out and the meat is very crisp. Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Add the onion to the pan and sauté over medium heat for five minutes.
- Add the tomatoes to the onion in the pan, including the liquid, break them up with a wooden spoon. Season with red-pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of cold water to a boil and add salt generously so it tastes as salty as the sea. Add the pasta and cook until very al dente, about 1-2 minutes, it will start floating to the top. You will finish cooking the pasta in the sauce, so pull it before it’s even al dente. Taste it so you know for sure. Fresh pasta does not take a long time to cook. You are better off pulling it way before it’s al dente than over cooking it. Remember you’re going to finish the cooking process in the sauce for maximum flavor. Drain pasta but make sure to reserve a cup or two of pasta water.
- Transfer a big ladle of cooked sauce to a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Work quickly to add the pasta and a ladle of the pasta water. Very gently stir pasta with tongs to allow it to finish cooking and absorbing the sauce, adding another ladle of sauce as you go. Add the reserved fried guanciale and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. When pasta is still al dente but has absorbed some of the sauce it’s done. You can just taste as you go. Remove the skillet from the heat, add the cheese and mix very well. Transfer the pasta to serving plate, top with a little more cheese, add a tiny bit more sauce on top (you don’t want your pasta swimming in sauce, less is more!) and serve immediately.