A twist on a classic: Pasta all’amatriciana with leeks

Francesco was very nervous about changing a perfectly executed classic. Bucatina all’amatriciana is some sort of untouchable dish in his native region. He is from Rieti, right in the center of Italy and about an hour from Rome. Just a few miles away is Amatrice, a small town made famous by the savory sauce. Still today, 10 long years after moving to the United States for grad school, he still feels uncomfortable messing with it.

It just occurred to me that I haven’t shared any of my pasta and sauce recipes. It turns out that 2.2 million of Italians are “addicted” to pasta and eat it for lunch AND dinner every day of the week (from the first Coldiretti-Censis report). Twice a day for seven days a week! That’s very impressive.

Francesco and I decided to twist the amatriciana sauce with leeks instead of shallots. Leeks are much softer, both in texture and taste. The traditional base for the sauce stayed the same: Two big cloves of garlic are thinly sliced and cooked in a non-stick pan for about 2 minutes or until golden. Instead of shallots, we diced one medium-sized leek and added it to the pan.

The traditional recipe calls for guanciale, unsmoked bacon derived from a pig’s cheeks, but we used Italian pancetta—equally delicious.

After dicing the pancetta and adding to the pan with the rest of the ingredients, we added a bit of white cooking wine and seasoned with salt and black pepper.

At this point, we added crushed tomatoes and let the deliciousness simmer for about 8 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, pour water in a pan and bring it to a boil. When ready, add the pasta—we chose penne rigate for its versatility (bow ties or fusilli will also do), and cook it for about 10 minutes or less if you, like us, like it al dente.

Strain the pasta, place it back into the pan it cooked in and pour the sauce over the pasta. To complete it, grate a bit of Parmigiano Reggiano or, even better, Pecorino cheese on top. Buon Appetito!


Il porro – leeks

La pasta – pasta

La pancetta – Italian bacon

Il pomodoro – tomato

L’aglio – garlic

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