Skip to Content

Rigatoni Amatriciana

This article contains affiliate links. We may receive compensation if you make a purchase but it won't cost you anything extra.

Follow our Rigatoni Amatriciana recipe and make the classic Roman pasta dish at home. It’s the next best thing to eating it in the eternal city.

Rigatoni Amatriciana with Fork

Our history with Pasta Amatriciana goes back over a decade. It’s one of the dishes Daryl made for us when we were first dating. Needless to say, Daryl’s cooking was an unmitigated success. We’re still together.

Faithfully following the authentic amatriciana recipe from Marcella Hazan’s legendary Italian cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, he added pancetta, Italy’s cured, unsmoked version of bacon. To Daryl, back then, the idea of adding cured meat made the dish special and different from American pasta dishes topped with meatballs, sausage or even meat sauce (i.e. the American version of ragu).

Click here to order Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking from Amazon.

Hazan’s recipe illuminated a new cuisine literally a world away from the heavily sauced pastas of our youth. Eating the dish was a revelatory experience in which the light chewiness of the pancetta and firmness of the pasta (in that case, bucatini) harmonized with tomato sauce to create wonderful culinary balance.

The History of Pasta Amatriciana

Bucatini Amatriciana
Many Amatricians claim that ‘true’ Pasta Amatriciana can only be made with bucatini. We bowed to tradition when we prepared the this plate of Bucatini Amatriciana.

The actual history of Pasta Amatriciana is centuries old and can be traced back to the ancient town of Amatrice in the Eastern part of Rome’s Lazio region in Italy.

Legend has it that shepherds would carry chunks of guanciale and pecorino on long journeys into the mountains. They allegedly used these items to make a sauce which they then added to fresh pasta they’d make by wrapping a mixture of flour and water on wires.

Amatrciana at Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina in Rome
We’re not the only ones to make Amatraciana Pasta without bucaini. Pictured here is a fine version made with mezze manica, a slightly smaller version of rigaton, that we ate at Roscioli Salumeria in Rome.

While that pasta evolved into what we now call bucatini, we’ve included rigatoni in our recipe. The hearty bite of the chunkier pasta provides a wonderful counterpoint to the sauce’s porky flavor. We also diverge from the original recipe by adding sautéed onions. Sue us.

The original recipe also calls for white wine. While we love the zip and pop that wine brings to pan sauces, we believe that the highly acidic nature of vino distracts from the sauce’s porky flavors. We also believe that tomatoes bring more than enough soprano-like acidity and sweetness while not muting the low key, baritone-like flavors of the pork.

Bottle of Silene Cesanese from Lazio
Since our recipe omits wine, we’re able to drink the full bottle with our pasta. Pictured here is a bottle of Cesanese d’Affile wine from the Lazio region that pairs well with Amatriciana. We obtained this bottle as part of our participation in the Roscioli Italy Wine Club.

Over time, Pasta Amatriciana has grown into more of a Roman dish much in the same way that Boeuf Bourguignon has morphed into a Parisian dish. However, both dishes are made in the style of the place where they originated.

Without doubt, the people of Amatrice can claim that they invented Pasta Amatriciana before the dish became popular in Roman trattorias. We like to think that we’ve captured the spirit of this dish and, most important, the flavor.

Rigatoni Amatriciana Ingredients

Rigatoni Amatriciana Ingredients
Our Rigatoni Amatriciana recipe list is relatively short. It includes rigatoni pasta, tomatoes, guanciale, an onion, parsley (or fresh basil) and red pepper flakes. You’ll also need salt and Pecorino Romano once the pasta is plated.

Our Rigatoni Amatriciana recipe includes items found in most Roman kitchens. The primary ingredients are guanciale, tomatoes, an onion and rigatoni pasta.

Guanciale

Guanciale Slab
Guanciale is a key ingredient in any Pasta Amatriciana recipe. This Guanciale, imported from Italy, has a generous amount of fat and provided a great base for our sauce.

As the years passed, one essential element of Hazan’s recipe remained in our minds. Hazan began her recipe by sautéing onions in olive oil. Why not render the pancetta first and use the fat from the pancetta to sauté the onions? Did she write the recipe that way to prevent the pancetta from burning?

The answer may be found in the key ingredient to any authentic Pasta Amatriciana recipe – guanciale. Back in the day, outside of Italian specialty stores in cities like Philadelphia and New York, the cured Italian pork cheek called guanciale was relatively difficult to find in America.

Things have changed. Companies like 1732 Meats in Philadelphia, Salumeria Biellese in the NYC area and even La Quercia in Iowa offer excellent versions of the cheeky, fatty pork product via mail order and at specialty retailers throughout the country.

Note About Guanciale in America
The guanciale you’ll find in America is a little leaner than the product you’ll find in Italy. However, examples we’ve seen on the web seem to have enough fat for you to create an authentically Roman product. That being said, these meatier, gamier meats will likely contribute a deeper flavor to the dish.

Pasta

Rigatoni Noodles
We used Delverde rigatoni pasta in our recipe – a brand that’s common in Europe. You can use your favorite brand when you make the dish at your home.

While it’s easy to spend less on generic dry pasta, we say spend a little extra and splurge on the good stuff. Generally, higher priced dry pasta, produced using bronze dies, has a rougher surface which grips the sauce better.

You’ll spend a dollar or two more but the difference is substantial. Your pasta will also have an al dente chew and and a distinct flavor.

Click here to order a bag of Italian pasta from Amazon if you don’t have access to good pasta where you live.

Canned Tomatoes vs. Passata

Passata vs Canned Tomatoes
We live in Europe where high quality tomato passata is available and cheap. However, quality Italian passata like Cirio is more expensive in the US. If passata is out of your budget, using canned tomatoes is an acceptable choice.

Since we live in Europe, we’re able to purchase tomato passata, a glass jarred version of tomato puree that tastes fresh and is easy to use. We can dump as much passata as we need into our sauce pot and we’re good to go. No smashing, no hand mashing, no squeezing and no problem. A jar typically costs just 2 to 3 euros and makes two to three meals.

But real Italian passata is expensive on Amazon. We hope this changes in the future but, for now, the best alternative to tomato passata in the states is canned tomatoes.

Click here to order Cirio passata from Amazon if you want to splurge.

Crushing Tomatoes
The best, cleanest way to mash whole tomatoes? Use a potato masher!

Yes. You could messily mash your whole tomatoes by hand. We choose to use a potato masher. You won’t create as thorough a tomato purée but it’s neater and the tomatoes will eventually disintegrate as the amatriciana sauce cooks.

Click here to order a potato masher from Amazon if you don’t already have this useful kitchen tool.

How To Make Rigatoni Amatriciana

Our recipe starts with a simple set of five ingredients. In this recipe, we render guanciale to produce enough fat to sauté the onion and, of course, impart its flavor in the sauce. We also add a little chili flake for some zippy heat.

Finally, as in most Roman pasta recipes, we finish the sauce by adding starchy pasta water to emulsify the porky tomato mixture into a finished Amatriciana sauce.

Important Note
While many recipes call for boiling the pasta in a large amount of water, we use less water for two reasons. First, a smaller amount of water takes less time to recover to a full boil once the pasta is added. Second the density of starch is greater with less water, creating a sort of loose slurry that thickens the sauce.

Begin by freezing the guanciale for about 30-45 minutes. This prevents the fat from melting in your hands and enables you to slice the guanciale (or pancetta) thinly and evenly.

Cutting Pecorino Romano with Knife
Don’t forget to cut the rind off of the guanciale. It’s chewy and inedible.

Be sure to cut the rind off the guanciale. (Do the same if there’s a hard rind on the pancetta.) We like to slice our guanciale about a 1/4″ thick.

Slicing Guanciale with Knife
Slicing the guanciale reveals the pork product’s ribbon-like texture.

Chop the onions medium fine. Briefly set the onions aside.

Chopped White Onion
Try not to cry when you chop the onions.

Lay the guanciale flat in a cool 12″ frying pan. Turn the heat to medium high. Cook the guanciale until it just browns on the edges and the fat begins to render. You’ll use this fat to sauté the chopped onion.

Guanciale in Pan
Listen for the sizzle as the guanciale cooks. It’s a beautiful sound.

Once the guanciale just begins to brown, immediately add the onion and crushed red pepper flakes. Sauté the onion until it’s soft and translucent.

Cooking Guanciale in Pan
Be careful not to let the guanciale burn. You’ll want to achieve a light brown color as shown in this photo.

Add the tomato puree and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer for about 45 minutes. If the mixture gets too thick, add about a 1/4 cup of water as needed. Be aware that the bottom may burn if the sauce gets too thick.

Adding Tomatoes to Rigatoni Amatriciana
Watch the sauce while it simmers to make sure that it doesn’t get too thick and burn.

Bring the heat down on the sauce to just keep it warm.

To begin the pasta, boil about 5 cups of water in a saucepan large enough to fit the pasta.

Note
We use rigatoni in this recipe. If you modify the recipe and use a long strand pasta like bucatini or spaghetti, use a 12″ sauté pan to boil the pasta. If you use a large sauce pan, you’ll still need to bend the long stranded pasta to submerge it all in the small amount of boiling water.

Rigatoni Noodles in Pot
Be sure to taste the pasta to ensure it finishes to the texture you prefer.

About three minutes before the pasta is fully cooked, raise the heat on the sauce to medium high. Once the rigatoni is cooked to just al dente (you can taste to check), use a spider or large slotted spoon (a slotted wok strainer works great for this) to transfer the rigatoni to the sauce.

You have two choices here. You can either move about 2 cups of the cooked pasta water to a heatproof measuring cup or leave the pasta water in your pasta pot to ladle into the sauce later.

Spooning Rigatoni Noodles
You’re near the finish line once you add the pasta into the sauce.

Once the pasta is transferred to the amatriciana pan, stir the sauce through the pasta. Begin pouring the pasta water into the sauce when the pasta and the sauce are mixed,

Pouring Pasta Water into Rigatoni Amatriciana
Adding pasta water gives the dish a salty starchiness.

Continue mixing in the pasta water until the sauce reaches a viscous consistency. You’ll be able to see the bottom of the pan when you drag a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan.

Rigatoni Amatriciana Mixing the Pasta and Sauce
Dragging the wooden spoon should reveal the bottom of the pan as pictured here.

Pasta Options

Spaghetti all Amatriciana at Romano in Rome
We use rigatoni in our recipe but you may want to use a different pasta.

As stated above, Pasta Amatriciana can be served with a range of pastas. Traditionally, the dish is served with bucatini but we chose rigatoni for our recipe. You can also serve the sauce with spaghetti or just about any pasta that tickles your fancy.

Remember you make the rules in your kitchen!

Wine Pairing

Rigatoni Amatriciana with White Wine on Green Marble
Rigatoni Amatriciana and white wine is a match made in Roman heaven.

Nothing stands up to the acidity of a great tomato sauce like a local wine from Lazio. We enjoyed our Rigatoni Amatriciana with a crispy Cesanese d’Affile from that region. Aged for at least one year in concrete vats, this white wine made our solid dish taste even better.

Opeing the Roscioli Italian Wine Club Package
Opening our Roscioli Italian Wine Club package was almost as fun as drinking the Italian wine at home.

We didn’t bring any Rome wine home with us since the eternal city wasn’t the final destination during our Italy food trip. Instead, we got this bottle through our partnership with the Roscioli Italian Wine Club.

Affiliated with the esteemed Roman restaurant group with the same name, Roscioli’s club ships artisan Italian wine to loads of countries including the US, the UK and our home base of Portugal.

We received our first bottles along with tasting notes and videos about the producers. If you love Italian wine and are interested in joining a wine club, you’ll want to explore joining this one.

Click here to join the Roscioli Italian Wine Club.

Rigatoni Amatriciana Recipe

Rigatoni Amatriciana with White Whine on Blue Place Mat

To be clear, there’s nothing better than eating Rigatoni Amatriciana in Rome. However, making and eating the dish with our recipe will transport you to Italy even if just for one meal.

Rigatoni Amatriciana in White Bowl

Rigatoni Amatriciana

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Additional Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours

Follow our Rigatoni Amatriciana recipe and make of Rome's four great pastas at home.

Ingredients

  • 15 ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian hot chili flake or finely minced dry, hot chili pepper
  • 2 - 3 ounces guanciale
  • 1 pound rigatoni rigate, bucatini, perciatelli or spaghetti
  • salt for pasta water and to taste
  • grated Pecorino Romano for serving
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley or basil for garnish

Instructions

  1. Place guanciale in the freezer for about 30 - 45 minutes. Freezing the guanciale will make it easier to slice.
  2. Slice guanciale into lardons about 1/4" thick by a 1/2" wide.
  3. Open can and pour tomatoes into a small mixing bowl. Either squeeze the tomatoes with your hands or mash them with a potato masher. Set aside.
  4. Place cut guanciale flat into a cool pan and turn heat on medium high.
  5. Add the chopped onion and chili flake once the guanciale just begins to turn translucent, gets brown on the edges and renders its fat.
  6. Cook the onion until soft and translucent and the guanciale is light brown (not burned). About 5 minutes.
  7. Add tomatoes and their liquid, adding a little water to rinse every bit of tomato product from the bowl. Simmer about 45 minutes, adding water as necessary to prevent scorching.
  8. Once the sauce has cooked 45 minutes and is thick and pasty, turn heat to its lowest setting to keep the sauce warm.
  1. Boil the pasta in 4 to 5 cups of salted water.
  2. Drop pasta into boiling water. Cook per instructions on the pasta box.
  3. Four minutes before the pasta is ready, raise the heat on the sauce to medium-high.
  4. About a minute before the pasta is fully cooked to just al dente. Use a spider or large slotted/perforated spoon to lift the pasta out of the pasta water and into the pasta sauce. if you choose to use a colander, reserve about 2 cups of the pasta water before draining the pasta. (You'll probably use about a cup.)
  5. If using a colander, immediately transfer the pasta to the pan with the sauce. (Skip this step if you don't use a colander.)
  6. Mix pasta and sauce for 30 seconds. Slowly begin incorporating the pasta water into the sauce until the sauce becomes viscous and you can see the bottom of the pan when dragging a wooden spoon on the bottom of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat.
  7. Top with grated Pecorino Romano and either flat leaf Italian parsley or fresh basil.

Notes

  • You can replace canned tomatoes with Passata Rustica (about 450 grams).
  • You can use pancetta if you can't find guanciale.
  • You can halve the recipe for two people.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 646Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 1830mgCarbohydrates: 75gFiber: 6gSugar: 7gProtein: 18g

Nutrition Disclosure: We used an online calculator to calculate this information. Though 2foodtrippers.com has attempted to secure accurate data, these nutritional figures are estimates.

Hungry for More Pasta?

Amatriciana is just one of four classic pastas found in Rome. Try our recipes for Linguine Carbonara, Bucatini Cacio e Pepe and Pasta alla Gricia. Then try Spaghetti alla Puttanesca from Naples.

Pin It for Later

Pinterest image: rigatoni amatriciana with caption reading "Rigatoni Amatriciana Recipe"
Red Beach Selfie in Santorini

About the Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Disclosure

We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

Boulevardier Cocktail - A Negroni for Bourbon Fans
← Previous
26 Thai Food Favorites That You Will Love
Next →
Skip to Recipe