Cheater’s Pasta All’Amatriciana

I didn’t make my first trip to Italy until I was 37. It was worth the wait.

Cheater’s Pasta All’Amatriciana

I didn’t make my first trip to Italy until I was 37. It was worth the wait.

I went on a once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation with my mother and sister. We started out in Tuscany, where we took cooking classes,  went truffle hunting with a real truffle hunter and his dogs, and toured wineries. After that, we headed down to Rome, where we ate way too much pasta and gelato, drank Negroni cocktails on rooftops, drank bottle after bottle of vino, and sipped cappuccinos.

We also toured a few ruins, hit the Vatican City, saw the Sistine Chapel, and threw coins into the breathtakingly beautiful — seriously, words cannot express — Trevi Fountain (pictured above — you may remember it from that Audrey Hepburn movie, Roman Holiday), after having drunk way too much Limoncello (thanks to the very generous proprietor of one restaurant, who couldn’t resist topping us off for free — more than a few times.)

Did I mention how much we ate? In Italy, they feed you constantly. “Mangia! Mangia!” I’ve never eaten so much in my life. As my mom said, “I didn’t have a hunger pang the entire time we were in Italy.”

When we were in Rome, I had Pasta All’Amatriciana for the first time. It was my most memorable meal in Roma. This dish hails from the Lazio region of Italy, which is where Rome is located.

If you don’t have time to break away on your own Roman Holiday anytime soon, make this pasta. It’s like a mini trip to the Eternal City. Whip up a few Negronis and you are there.

My version of Pasta All’Amatriciana is the “cheater’s version”. I modified this recipe from Chef Mario Batali’s version from his Babbo restaurant. Amatriciana sauce is traditionally made with Guanciale, or dried pork cheek. I don’t tend to keep that in the fridge, so I used good old American bacon.

I also used Parmesan instead of Romano. Again, I don’t tend to keep Romano cheese in my fridge but I always have a block of Parmesan in there. Yeah, I know, Romano is the traditional cheese with this sauce but that’s why I call it Cheater’s Pasta All’Amatriciana.

I used sprouted flour fettuccine (procured at Trader Joe’s) to make the meal more nutritious. You an use any kind of pasta, but I recommend either brown rice pasta or sprouted flour pasta.

My two-year-old loved this pasta. If you have picky eaters, this is definitely a crowd pleaser. After all, who doesn’t love bacon?

Best of all, this recipe is not only delicious — it is so easy! It’s the kind of meal you can whip up at a moment’s notice — and it’s fancy enough for a dinner party. Serve with a green salad, or an Insalate Caprese.

Cheater’s Pasta All’Amatriciana


Bacon, nitrate-free (1 package or 12 ounces)– or, if you can get it, guanciale
Garlic cloves (3)
Red onion (1)
Hot red pepper flakes (1 tsp)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Tomato sauce (1 1/2 cups)
Brown rice pasta or whole wheat pasta (1 pound) — — where to buy sprouted or whole wheat pasta
Flat-leaf parsley leaves (1 bunch)
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano (or, if you don’t have that, freshly grated Parmesan)




1. In a stockpot, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil, then add 2 tablespoons of salt.
2. Fry the bacon in a pan in a single layer and cook over medium heat.
3. Place the bacon on a plate.
4. Pour off about half of the bacon fat — leaving enough to coat the garlic, onion and red pepper flakes (save the extra bacon fat for another use). Return the bacon to the pan with the vegetables, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper, add the tomato sauce, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
5. Cook the pasta in the boiling water according to the package directions, until al dente.
6. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce with the chopped parsley leaves.
7. Serve with freshly grated Pecorino (or Parmesan) cheese.

This post is part of Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays and Real Food Wednesdays.

Photo credit: Giampaolo Macorig on Flickr