Friday, 14 October 2011

When in Rome...

During our adventures in Europe, we decided to eat the local specialities in each city we visited. Waffles, Beer, Moules and Frites in Belgium; Pannekoeken in Amsterdam; Croissants and Fois Gras in Paris; Civapcici and Pasticada in Croatia; Tapas and Paella in Spain. We totally craved Italian food the whole time we were in Europe, and except for a couple slip ups, vowed not to eat pizza or pasta until we reached Italy. 

My most memorable meal in Italy was at a restaurant on a patio overlooking the nearly 1900 year old Pantheon. It wasn't cheap, but generally, restaurants closest to touristy attractions aren't. 

I decided to order a dish I'd never heard of that sounded amazing: Bucatini all'Amatriciana. I was blown away, trying to stuff every last tasty bite into my tummy. The portion was too big and I had to leave half of it behind. It broke my heart, but we were sans fridge, so it had to be done. The meal was even better than the view (If that could even be possible!) I promised to make it as soon as I got home, before I could forget how seriously amazing this dish was. When I got home and looked it up, I found out it was pretty much the regional dish of Rome, well Lazio, the region of Italy where Rome is. How cool is that? I ate the regional dish of Rome in Rome! When in Rome...

The dish calls for Guanciale, a cured meat made from the jowls or cheeks of the pig and is the regional specialty of Lazio. I looked for this all over Bosa Foods and couldn't get my hands on it. Pancetta is close enough and makes a decent substitution, so that's what I ended up using. When I ate this in Rome, it was with Guanciale and let me tell you, it was fantastic! If you can find it, use it, if not, Pancetta is great too. 

4 cups of Tomato Sauce 
1/2 small Sweet Onion, minced
1 - 1 1/2 cups of Guanciale or Pancetta, cubed into 1/4" cubes
3 Roma Tomatoes, cubed
1 500g box of Bucatini
2 Tablespoons Salt
Pecorino Romano Cheese, shredded fine
Fresh Basil Leaves, roughly chopped
1-2 Tablespoons EVOO

In a big pot, boil water for the pasta. When it comes to a boil, add the salt and Bucatini, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking and to get all the pasta to submerge (it's pretty long and thick so it may take a while. Follow package instructions for boiling time. My box said 11 minutes, but I let it boil a bit longer as I don't like mine too hard. You want it al dente. 

Meanwhile, in a big flat bottom pan with high flat sides, coat the bottom with your EVOO. 

Lay your Guanciale or Pancetta in a single layer in the pan. Place over medium heat, covered for about 7 minutes. Flip them over and recover to cook the other side for another 5 minutes. You don't want to heat too hot as you want the fat to render out of the pork without burning. use your judgement. If it's too hot, turn the heat down. 

Once the Pancetta is golden all over, but not super crisp, add the onions to the pan and sauté for a couple minutes.

Add the tomatoes and sauté until they start breaking down a bit, about 5 minutes with the lid on. 

Pour in the Tomato Sauce, stir to combine and let it simmer with the lid on to heat through, until the pasta is ready to go. 

When the pasta is done, drain it really well, shaking off all the water- DO NOT RINSE! NEVER RINSE!!!  Get it into the pan with the sauce. Combine until all the noodles are coated and the Pancetta bits are distributed evenly. 

Throw the lid on and turn off the heat. Let it hang out, while you get your table ready, get your Pecorino Romano shredded, get your basil chopped or torn, etc. When you mix up your bowl to eat, the cheese will combine with the sauce and stick to the noodles better and it will become a part of the sauce. Don't omit the cheese and basil, they are the best part!

Dish it out into your favourite pasta bowls. Top with a very generous portion of the shredded Pecorino Romano and torn/chopped Basil leaves to taste. You can serve this up with a salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, basil, balsamic and your best EVOO. 

This dish tastes even better the next day for lunch! 

Ohhh Myyyyy Goooooood.... So Delish!


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