Spaghetti all’ Amatriciana

Spaghetti all’ Amatriciana

I feel the need to emphasise this point: this is by no means a traditional Spaghetti all’ Amatriciana. Instead it is a meat-free version that makes the best of pantry staples. However if you prefer to include guanciale (or a substitute meat), then notes for making a more traditional version can be found below. Whether you make my recipe, or lean towards the more traditional version, this makes a fantastic quick and easy meal.


Traditionally Spaghetti all’ Amatriciana is made with guanciale, however many recipes substitute either pancetta or bacon. If you prefer to add this ingredient then a rule of thumb for how much to add is that it should be one quarter the weight of pasta. Therefore in recipe with 240 grams of pasta, you would include 60 grams of guanciale (or panetta, or bacon). Cut it into thins strips and at the beginning of Step 2 (below), add it to the saucepan and fry until its fat has turned a golden brown. Then add the diced onion and proceed with the recipe.

The Amatrice version of this recipe does not include onion and is made with spaghetti. The version that is found in Rome does include onion and is made with bucatini (similar to spaghetti but slightly thicker and has a hole running through the centre of it). I include onion as I use in place of the bacon (with the smoked paprika adding ‘smokiness’. I use Spaghetti because my local supermarket did not stock bucatini.

If possible use San Marzano tomatoes. However if these aren’t available then plum tomatoes (or even just generic ‘tomatoes’) will work just fine.

Similarly, while pecorino is traditional to this recipe, if you don’t have pecorino cheese then Parmesan cheese can be used in it’s place. If you have neither pecorino or Parmesan, then good ol’ reliable cheddar cheese works just fine.

My rule of thumb for pasta is 60 grams per person. Why 60g? My rule of thumb for rice is also 60 grams per person, I find it easier to use the same measurement for both pasta and rice 🙂

Spaghetti all’ Amatriciana
Serve 4


    1 tablespoon oil
    1 onion, diced
    1 teaspoon smoked paprika
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder (or to taste)
    400g canned tomatoes (see Notes above)
    50g Pecorino cheese, finely grated (see Notes above)
    240g dried spaghetti (see Notes above)


  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add salt, and cook the pasta according to package instructions. Continue with the remainder of the recipe wile the water comes to the boil and the pasta cooks. The sauce and the pasta should be ready at the same time.
  2. In a medium saucepan, and over a low heat, add the oil and the diced onion. Stir to coat the onion in the oil, cover with the saucepan lid, and let the onion cook for about 5 minutes until it softens.
  3. Remove the lid and increase the heat to a medium. Cook the onion for a minute to add some colour. Add the smoked paprika and cayenne powder, stir to combine and cook for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the canned tomatoes, fill the can one-third full of water and use the water to ‘rinse’ the remaining tomato out from the tin into the sauce.
  5. Increase the heat to high until the sauce comes to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the sauce simmers. Add half the grated pecorino cheese and stir it in to combine with the sauce. Simmer the sauce for as long as you can until the pasta is cooked.
  6. Test for seasoning and if necessary add salt. If necessary add a pinch of caster sugar if the sauce tastes too acidic.
  7. Once the pasta has cooked, drain and return it to the saucepan. Stir the pasta into the sauce and serve with the remaining pecorino cheese scattered on top.

Nerd Notification: Food History

Spaghetti all’ Amatriciana is said to hail from Amatrice, a town which is found in the province of Rieti, to the north of the Lazio region in Italy.

Amatrice (pinned) is located in the Lazio region, about 140km from Rome

The association between this dish with the town runs so deep that Amatrice is known as the ‘City of Spaghetti all’ Amatriciana’.

My recipe plays fast and loose when it comes to the ingredients of this dish. However in researching the dish the following ‘dos’ and ‘do nots’ came up again and again when it came to a ‘traditional’ recipe. 1

Traditional Ingredients

  • Guanciale is the traditional pork product to use. Guanciale is cured pork cheek and according to epicures does not taste the same as pancetta (which is made from pork belly). No oil is used to cook the guanciale.
  • Pecorino cheese is used in traditional recipes. Despite both being hard cheeses, pecorino and Parmesan are not inter-changeable. Pecorino is made from sheep’s milk, while Parmesan is made from cow’s milk. Given the more mountainous terrain of the region, it’s not surprising that it is made from a sheep’s milk cheese.
  • Fresh tomatoes – or canned San Marzano tomatoes – are used in traditional recipes. No tomato paste is used in traditional recipes.
  • No onions or garlic should be found in Spaghetti all’Amatriciana. However, as noted above onions are found in the Roman version – but the traditional dish from Amatrice is sans onion.
  • Spaghetti is the pasta used in a traditional Spaghetti all’ Amatriciana. As noted above the Roman version uses Bucatini, but that seems to be the extent of pasta variations permitted.

1 For example these websites which cover traditional ingredients: Authentic Italian Cuisine, Recipes from Italy, and La Cucina Italiana