It’s all about onions, spicy tomatoes, and pork products. Guanciale cured pork jowl is the key here. It has a sweeter, more interesting flavor than bacon. In a pinch, pancetta can be substituted, and in a double pinch bacon will suffice (though it does add a smokier flavor, so be warned).
- Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
- Total Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces guanciale, cut into ¼-inch strips
- 4 onions, cut into ½-inch dice
- ½ to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Kosher salt
- 2 (28-ounce) cans San Marzano tomatoes, passed through a food mill
- 1 pound bucatini or perciatelli
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano
- Big fat finishing oil
- Coat a large saucepan with olive oil; add the guanciale and cook over low heat until it’s brown and crispy and has rendered a lot of fat, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the guanciale and set a third of it aside for garnish—I like to call these bits “the crispy critters.”
- Bring the pan and the remaining fat to medium heat, add the onions and red pepper, and season generously with salt. Cook until the onions are soft and aromatic, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and two-thirds of the guanciale, and bring to a boil (BTB), then reduce to a simmer (RTS) and cook the sauce for about 1 hour, tasting periodically and adding salt as needed (trust me, you will need to reseason).
- Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 1 minute less than the instructions on the package suggest. Taste it: It should be toothsome with just a little nugget of hard pasta still in the center—this is al dente.
- Ladle about 2 cups of the sauce into a bowl and set it aside as an insurance policy; you want the perfect ratio of pasta to sauce and while you can always add it back, you can’t take it out once the pasta is in the pan.
- Drain the pasta, add it to the pan of sauce, and stir well. Cook the pasta in the sauce, adding more sauce if needed, for another 1 to 2 minutes; the pasta will begin to absorb the sauce and it will cling to the pasta in a lovely little hug. Add the cheese and a drizzle of big fat finishing oil and toss until it’s a homogeneous mixture. Divide among serving bowls, top with more Parm, and give each a sprinkle of the crispy critters.