The one about a crispy salmon skin...
One of the many gifts that come with being a passionate cook is how easy it is to get into the kitchen. It’s more often a joy and not a chore. This fact means I can attack a recipe or satisfy a craving confidently and quickly. The need for pasta doesn’t strike me as often as you’d think, when it does my favorite is bucatini all ‘Amatriciana. It hits all the spots. It’s as a great summer pasta dish because it uses all those Roma tomatoes growing in the garden. Fresh tomatoes are unnecessary for this dish. In fact it’s a fantastic way to use that can of peeled, whole tomatoes that have been sitting in the back of your pantry. This bowl of pasta comes together so quickly I’m surprised more people don’t cook it more often.
Ten ingredients and 20 minutes and you’ve got dinner or a snack. I start with a hot pan, a few shots of golden, buttery Spanish olive oil and a half cup of chopped, unsmoked thick cut bacon. I’ve had a formidable challenge getting my hands on guanciale (a cured pork cheek or jowl). While the bacon cooks to crispy perfection, I set a large pot of salted water on the heat to boil. Next I turn my attention to my mortar and pestle and a bit of black peppercorns and red pepper flakes. I like shattering them gently until I get just the slightest aroma of spice and earth. Once the bacon has offered up all its magic, I add the crushed pepper mixture into the rendered fat. I pass two cloves of raw, juicy garlic through my handheld grater and watch the soft white heap fall into the hot oil. I'll take a moment to listen to the oil sputter in response to the wet garlic. My favorite part of making this dish is opening the can of San Marzano tomatoes and passing the fruit between my fingers into the pan. The sound of the ingredients goes from an angry sizzle to a muted, energetic gurgle.
I let the sauce cooking gently until it thickens enough to hug the pasta, which requires about 15 minutes. The dish doesn’t work unless the strands of hollow bucatini are seasoned and cooked to the texture of a fresh stick of gum. I usually under cook the pasta by a minute or so and finish it in the sauce. I also preserve a bit of the paste water and employ it to tweak the sauce and warm a bowl. I slip the finished all ‘Amatriciana into a bowl with a pair of tongs or a meat fork and finish it with a blizzard of pecorino Romano.