Barny Haughton’s Bucatini all’ Amatriciana
The sauce for this deeply delicious and simple dish has four basic ingredients: tomatoes, shallots, chilli and bacon. But there are some rules about the ingredients: You really need to get the right bacon; the deep flavour of a good Amatriciana comes from the rendered-down fat. The best bacon cut is guanciale (pork cheek) but a good fatty unsmoked pancetta will do fine as well.
Bucatini (like thick spaghetti) is best for the pasta but rigatoni or penne will also do well - but don’t use fresh pasta. And finally: use pecorino not parmesan. The difference may not seem a big deal but what you get from pecorino (made from sheeps milk) is a sharpness which works brilliantly with the rich Amatriciana sauce. Parmesan (made from cows milk) is sweeter and less defined in its flavour You are going to make a passata out of the tomatoes. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Mark 4. Place the tomatoes on a roasting tray, toss them in a little olive oil and salt and bake them for about 45 minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then pass through a mouli or sieve, leaving behind only the dry skin and seeds. Note: if you have lots and lots of ripe tomatoes, say, five kilos, you could do as above, then reheat the passata to simmering and transfer to sterilised jars, screw the lids on tight and keep in a cool place for up to three months until needed.
Slice the guanciale into thickish rashers and then into lardons about 1cm wide. Put a splash of olive oil in the bottom of a deep solid bottomed sauté or frying pan, bring to a medium heat and put the lardon in the pan. Once they have started to fry, turn the heat down and continue to fry gently. As the fat renders down, pour it off into a bowl. Continue doing this until the lardons become crispy. Drain the remaining fat off into the bowl, put the lardons to one side. In the same pan, fry the sliced shallots until they are soft but not brown. Add the chilli flakes, fry a little longer, then add the passata, bay leaves and a few twists of black pepper. Simmer gently for 25 minutes and keep warm.
Cook the pasta in the normal way but make sure you cook it to just before it’s al dente. This is because you are going to finish it in the sauce for a further 30 seconds or so. Drain, toss in olive oil and put to one side.
Meanwhile, add the rendered fat to the tomato sauce and have the crispy lardons ready in a warm place.
Now add the pasta and lardons to the sauce in the frying pan, simmer for 30 seconds and serve immediately with lots of grated pecorino.