I've been freezing a lot of our CSA tomatoes as per this helpful post from Apartment Therapy the kitchn. I'm planning on using my frozen tomatoes later in the winter for pasta sauces and curries. However, this past weekend was a huge family get-together for us and I wanted to make a family pasta dinner. I didn't want to thaw any of our frozen tomatoes, so I went the old-fashioned route and bought some fresh plum tomatoes for skinning and cooking.
We had lots of bucatini at home, so the first choice was (naturally) bucatini all'Amatriciana. I love this simple, smoky, sweet tomato sauce combined with the nice al dente texture of bucatini.
To get that lovely sweet taste, you need to use nice, fresh, ripe plum tomatoes (or shell out for the San Marzano canned ones!) Luckily, I managed to buy some local plum tomatoes and here they are all blanched and peeled in their super-ripe prime:
This sauce is pretty simple and pared down. I think I've even seen it done without onions... I prefer a bit of onion. So my sauce contains four ingredients: tomatoes, pancetta, onion and pecorino Romano.
If you can find guanciale, this dish would be even more tasty. Usually, I use pancetta because it is so readily available. In fact, I like to keep a small slab of pancetta in my fridge at all times because it adds flavour so readily to so many dishes.
So the sauce is simplicity at its finest - heat a very small amount of olive oil and and your pancetta. Cook until the fat is mostly rendered off, this provides the cooking oil you'll need for the onions.
When the pancetta starts to get a nice brown crust, add the onions.
Cook everything until the onions start to soften and then throw in your tomatoes. You can add them whole or chop them up. Chopping them or squishing them in your hands will speed up the cooking process, as it breaks them down and gets the juices out faster.
Bring everything up to a simmer, then cover and cook until the tomatoes have transformed themselves into a nice uniform sauce. This usually takes 3 to 4 hours.
My tomatoes were all broken down by about 3 hours, but perhaps needed an hour more to concentrate down into a thicker sauce. Unfortunately, since we had guests waiting for dinner, I needed to speed the process up a bit. Hence the addition of some tomato paste which thickened the sauce up within 10 minutes.
Then all that's left to do is to stir in your cheese and spoon it over some cooked pasta. (I also threw in a handful of roughly torn basil leaves because we have a lot of it in the garden right now).
You can see there's always room for more freshly grated cheese :) I had just a few chunks of tomatoes left in the sauce here and there, which I love for the rustic, homemade look it gives to the dish.
For those of you interested, here are the approximate amounts I used to make sauce for 3 pounds of pasta:
2 kg plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
350 grams pancetta, cubed
1 large onion, diced
1 cup grated pecorino romano, plus more for serving
3 lbs bucatini
basil leaves or other seasonings to your taste
- Prepare the tomatoes.
- Heat a large dutch oven or similar vessel. Render the fat from the pancetta.
- Add the onion and cook until softened.
- Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for approximately 4 hours, or until the sauce is at your desired consistency.
- Cook the pasta as directed.
- Stir grated cheese into sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning as your like.
- Spoon over or toss with pasta.
Note: I only boiled 2 pounds of pasta and this was enough to feed 12 people when you factored in the salad and garlic bread. We boiled the extra pound the next day and had it with the leftover sauce, to there was enough sauce for 3 pounds of pasta, if you like your pasta lightly dressed. If you're the type who enjoys having a lot of sauce left on your plate after you've finished the noodles then you may want to use 3 kg of tomatoes (i.e. one kilogram of tomatoes for every pound of pasta you intend to cook). No need to adjust the amounts of the other ingredients.