The origins of this dish are legendarily traced back to shepherds who used the available sheep’s milk cheese with pasta water for the sauce. Today this cheese is linked to Rome via its name: Pecorino Romano. There are “Four Famous” Roman pasta dishes, all of them related to each other, and all of them using grated Pecorino Romano sheep’s milk cheese: Cacio e Pepe, Gricia, Carbonara and Amatriciana. At the risk of oversimplifying, Cacio e Pepe is the simplest, a meatless dish using cheese, pepper and the water from the pasta to form a rich emulsion sauce; Gricia adds the unctuous taste of cured pork cheek (guanciale); add an egg and you get a truly indulgent carbonara and, if you skip the egg and add tomatoes you get Amatriciana. A few simple ingredients of truly high quality create an astounding variety of tastes. While you’ll often see Romans having their Sugo all’Amatriciana with bucatini (a spaghetti-like pasta with a hollow middle), in Amatrice the dish is always traditionally prepared with spaghetti. Pancetta may be substituted, if needed for guanciale, but never bacon or smoked pork. Dry pasta, never fresh, is a must…. a nod to the origins of the dish– shepherds went to the pastures with cured pork to last, dry pasta, black pepper, and pecorino cheese.
While water is boiling, slide the pancetta into bite-size pieces, about ¼ inch each
Heat olive oil in pan, add pancetta.
Brown over medium heat until pancetta is just slightly crunchy
Remove pancetta from pan, reserve to side.
Break tomatoes up with your hands as you add them to the same pan; they should be a little chunky
Cook sauce about 10 minutes over low heat. Add salt, black pepper, and red chili flakes to taste
When water boils, add Spaghetti Toscani Pici, cook to al dente (about 8 minutes)
Drain spaghetti, saving back about ½ cup of pasta water
Add spaghetti to the sauce in the pan with a quick saute to cover with sauce.
Add the cooked pancetta.
Add the pasta water a tablespoon at a time, along with the grated cheese, rapidly stirring to integrate the cheese into the hot water and sauce.
Serve hot, garnished with Flora Grated Parmesan & Romano Cheese.