Authentic Amatriciana

Most people rave about the carbonara, which is an Italian treasure, no doubt about it.

I feel that the Amatriciana is the unloved brother though. I don’t get why, because (i) we all love a good tomato sauce, and (ii) guanciale rules. Maybe it’s because you couldn’t mess up with it using bacon instead, as it would have absolutely zero interest, so it didn’t become popular.

With the guanciale though (cured pork cheek, a highly fatty part), the classic tomato sauce has an added depth and umami flavour that is unmatched. Add a healthy portion of grated Pecorino, some pasta water, and there you have it ! The 30-mn dish that will make you and your friends go wild for seconds.

Authentic Amatriciana Ingredients – Advice & key points

I usually go to Eataly to get the produce I need. If you don’t have one near your location, you can find fresh produce like guanciale and pecorino at your local Italian deli, maybe even your pasta. For pasta, if not available there, you should be able to order it online quite easily.

  • Pasta : The best choice for this recipe would be bucatini, which is what I used. These thicker tubular pasta are holed in the middle ; it’s what you’ll be served in Rome when you ask for pasta all’amatriciana. However, it can be tricky to find, especially is a bronze drawn version. Don’t worry and just pick spaghetti instead. The Italians also use mezze penne rigate, which are short ridged pasta ; you can use it, too (but I find it less satisfying).

What you must not compromise on is using Bronze Drawn pasta. Why so ? Because when processed this way, the pasta will present small irregularities that will enable the sauce to cling to it.

  • Guanciale : You can buy it in blocks at your deli or have it pre-sliced. I usually cut it in really thin matchsticks, so that they crisp up in the pan, about 1cm x 4cm.

I’d really advise against replacing Guanciale with Pancetta, or worse, bacon or lard, as it simply yields a different flavour and fat content.

  • Cheese(s) : The cheese of choice is Pecorino Romano here.
  • Tomato purée : I advise you to use tomato purée here, which cooks quickly but is not as thin as Passata ; some bits of tomato remain, which I like better. If you want to use diced canned tomatoes or whole canned tomatoes, that’s perfect, but be sure to smash it a bit with your hands, and to cook the sauce longer (at least 20 minutes instead of 10-15).

Authentic Amatriciana Recipe – What to pay attention to

  • Pasta :
    • Instead of 10g of salt/liter, I recommend 7g here, with the salt from the guanciale and the cheese.
    • We’ll cook the pasta half of the packet cooking time in water, then in the pan with the guanciale. It is important that you taste several times starting 2 minutes before the theoretical end time, so that you get perfect al dente pasta.
  • Guanciale :
    • You want to crisp it up, but still let the fat melt. Therefore, cook on medium heat. The process should last around 6 to 7 minutes.
  • Pecorino :
    • It is very important to thinly grate your Pecorino to that it melts properly. Look at my carbonara picture ; this is the thickest you can get. You can use a microplane, but if you have a kitchen robot with a really thin setting, it will also work just fine and save you the trouble.
    • Do not use pre-grated cheese ! Additives are added to these cheeses so that they don’t clump together, which will prevent it from integrating properly in your sauce.
  • Plating : I highly recommend heating your plates in the oven for 10 minutes at 80°C before plating. This will prevent the sauce from getting cold too quickly and become unappealingly “set”.

Now you’re fully ready to cook a magnificent pasta dish. Off to your kitchen !

If you’re interested in more authentic italian recipes, you can also check my Ragu alla Bolognese recipe.

Difficulty: Beginner Prep Time 10 min Cook Time 20 min Total Time 30 mins
Servings: 2
Best Season: Suitable throughout the year


This is a humble dish that was born in the small town of Amatrice, on the border between Lazio and Abruzzo, and has become a classic of Roman and Abruzzo gastronomy since. And I do get why ! With only 4 ingredients, the level of umami reached with the tomato sauce/guanciale/pecorino combination is insane. 



  1. Prep your Pecorino and Guanciale

    Grate your Pecorino Romano with the thinnest grating tool you can find.

    Cut your Guanciale into thin strips.

  2. Cook your guanciale

    To a pot, add a minimum of 2 liters of pasta water (at least 1 liter per 100 grams of pasta) and start heating. 

    Preheat oven to 80°C.

    In a cold pan, put your guanciale on medium heat and allow the fat to melt, around 7 minutes.

    When the guanciale turns golden-brown, remove half of it, then add your tomato purée. Add a few sprinkles of black pepper. Put the pan or medium-low and let the sauce simmer.

    2 to 3 minutes later, add your pasta to the water pot. Let it cook for half the packet theoretical time, around 6 minutes.

    Add your plates to your preheated oven.

    Be careful not to burn the guanciale as it will turn bitter, but you want it golden-brown and crispy. When removing the guanciale, keep all the fat into the pan ! This is where all the flavour is.
  3. Finish cooking your pasta in the pan

    After half of your pasta cooking time, add your pasta to your tomato sauce, using kitchen thongs.

    Add around 1 ladle of pasta water, and let it cook. Stir regularly, adding water as needed. 

  4. Add your cheese

    Taste your pasta regularly. 

    2 minutes before it turns al dente, check your sauce aspect ; it should still feel slightly liquidy, else your pasta will be too dry. Add pasta water if needed. 

    Remove from heat 2 minutes before the pasta is al dente. Add your grated cheese progressively, either stirring with a wooden spoon or shaking directly your pan up (see video).

    Adjust the amount of water if the sauce is not liquid enough. Heat it slightly on a very low fire if necessary.

    I found that pan-cooking the pasta is slower ; it can take up to 5 minutes more than the assumed cooking time for the pasta to be fully cooked. 
  5. Plate it up !

    Take your plates out of the oven.

    Pour the reserved crisped guanciale and cheese over your pasta. 

    Et voilà ! You're done !!


  • There are no good replacements for any ingredient of this recipe. I know it might take some effort to get it all, but it is worth it. 
Keywords: home made, pasta, amatriciana, pasta all'amatriciana, tomato sauce, guanciale, comforting, italian, pasta

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