Dylan's fabulously simple pancetta penne amatriciana

    25 min

    This is a simple, quick to make and tasty dish that blows everyone away! Bottom line - it's a tomato based sauce with a chilli kick to it. This dish is basically Italian peasant food, and although you can use more fancy ingredients, I‘ve decided to do a ‘real world’ recipe where you can get all the ingredients from any supermarket. My daughter has loved this dish since she was about 4 and it's one of my wife's favourites, too, as it is something fresh and authentic I make quickly without airs or graces. If you wish, dress with some fresh Parmesan cheese shavings and basil or oregano - entirely up to you and not essential to the dish. Serve with garlic bread. As I said, it's not a complex dish but it is exactly the type of food you'd eat in any Italian home in Rome on your average week night. Works just as well as a lunch, and also with spaghetti.


    Merseyside, England, UK
    4 people made this

    Serves: 3 

    • 2 large onions
    • 3 cloves garlic
    • 2 large red chillis
    • 400g chopped tomatoes
    • 4 teaspoons olive oil
    • 130g pancetta, cubed
    • salt and ground black pepper
    • 200ml dry white wine
    • 600g fresh egg penne
    • Parmesan cheese, oregano, basil (optional)

    Prep:10min  ›  Cook:15min  ›  Ready in:25min 

    1. Preparation wise (easily takes me less than 10 minutes) you need to finely chop your onions - the finer the better. Also finely chop your garlic and seed and chop your red chillis. Peel your tomatoes (only if you're NOT using tinned chopped tomatoes) and get your water ready to boil for the pasta (remember to add pinch of salt to the water).
    2. Put the oven on for your garlic bread or your focaccia or whatever (if you're having it). Finally, pour yourself a glass of wine. You're about 15 minutes away from eating like a king!
    3. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to a hot pan - ideally a heavy bottomed iron pan, but most pans will do.
    4. Add all of the pancetta cubes, season with a good dose of salt and then fry in the olive oil until it is rendered, but NOT crispy - I repeat - NOT crispy.
    5. Add your chopped garlic and chopped red chillis to the rendered pancetta and stir in well. Again, cook but don't crisp or burn!
    6. Next add all of your onions and cook them with everything else for about a minute - until they're sauteed, basically.
    7. Now add at least 200ml of dry white wine (use more if you like, you're gonna simmer most of it off anyway, and the more you use, the better, really, as it adds great flavour to this sauce). Re-season with black pepper and salt.
    8. It's around this point you're gonna want to chuck your garlic bread or whatever in the oven. If you're not using fresh pasta then you'll probably also want to start boiling your packet penne rigate as that can take 10 to 12 minutes.
    9. Keep stirring every so often and allow to simmer - you're aiming to reduce it down by about 75%. The temptation to eat it at this point is incredible - it really is tasty as it is!
    10. Once the base sauce / wine is simmered down by 75% then add your chopped tomatoes and mix in well, and cook for about 5 minutes. Tinned chopped tomatoes will do (feel free to use the ones with garlic or herbs, they all cost about 80p for a decent quality tin) or you can use fresh tomatoes if you like (just peel).
    11. Chuck your fresh penne in the water you have boiled and cook to taste - usually about 3 or 4 minutes with the fresh penne and less if you like it al dente.
    12. While your pasta is finishing cooking, keep stirring your sauce and maybe give it a quick blast of heat towards the end. The chopped tomatoes should be well broken down and mixed in by now.
    13. Drain your pasta, serve and add the sauce. Some people like to mix their pasta and sauce together in the pan at this point prior to serving but that's entirely up to you.
    14. If you wish, dress with some fresh parmesan shavings and / or basil or oregano (entirely up to you and not essential to the dish)
    15. Serve in big bowls with garlic bread and a nice white wine. For me that's usually the rest of the bottle left over from cooking - if I haven't drunk it already!

    Use for leftovers

    I always save any leftovers for the next day with this dish, it's usually got an even bigger chilli kick by then.

    Make ahead

    This is a great party dish if you want to make ahead of time and serve a load of people with something really tasty - just extrapolate the ingredients accordingly.


    Sometimes when I add the pancetta, I also add in some chopped salami just for the sweet taste, but that's not part of the recipe and entirely optional. You could just as easily use guanciale or prosciutto or even chopped bacon but I like the cheap simplicity of pancetta. There’s no need to go overboard - just buy the cubed pancetta available at your local supermarket (you can buy strips of fresh pancetta but trust me - cubes are best for a quick simple meal). Your choice whether you buy smoked pancetta or not. It will come in a small plastic box for about £1.75 and you should use all 130g of it. Feel free to use more if you like, the more the merrier! If you're vegetarian you could always use a chopped aubergine or something instead of the pancetta. Add chopped bacon or salami or chopped prosciutto or anything of this nature to make a more substantial meal and / or add a little sweetness. Can easily be made a vegetarian meal by omitting the obvious meat ingredients and substituting with chopped aubergine for example.

    Ingredient notes

    If you're using the packet (dried) penne rigate, well that can take about 10 or 12 minutes so you will need to have started cooking that around the time you added the white wine. Fresh costs about £1.50 or less. For the wine, you can just buy the tiny individual size bottles for about £2.00 or less and Tesco, or even do a plastic can of Spanish white for a little over a quid if you really want to economise! Soave actually works quite well too, which is a cheap white. There really is no need to splash out on an expensive bottle unless like me you want an excuse to drink the rest with your meal.


    Remember not to do dumb stuff like I do like rub your eyes when you are chopping chillis.

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     -  16 Apr 2012