Saturday, 15 October 2011

When in Rome... ( Penne all' Amatriciana)

We love the flamboyantly noisy beauty of The Eternal City. Rome, the capital of Italy is not shy! Through the translucent cooling beauty of the many fountains, millions of tourists try to find refuge in a bottle of ice cold mineral water. The sound of cars, engines, music and a fusion of languages make the city as beautiful as beautiful can be.

Piazza Navona

At night, a peaceful , silvery blanket covers the sky. The sounds and the heat collected through the day, and still very much felt, dance... all the way up towards millions of stars and the moon. Rome is beautiful!
Ancient and new hold hands, history can be touched, in the Eternal City. We so love being in Rome. Beautiful lady, you smell like the sun in the day and at night you wear expensive perfume and your most beautiful designer gown!

Rome is gorgeous at night! Piazza di Trevi, with its beautiful fountain (a work of art by Bernini, like the fountain in Piazza Navona) is still alive at 2 in the morning... buzzing with LA DOLCE VITA!

 Fontana di Trevi. So full of life!

When in Rome, my husband and I like to dress up in the evening, and go out to eat. It's a ritual we love performing. We walk all the way down the beautiful Via Cavour and three blocks down we turn left and walk some of the way, till we reach "Le Due Colonne" a lovely restaurant down the side of the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie, a beautiful big church ( so many churches and nuns and Berlusconi in Rome!)

At "Le Due Colonne" they have a very good menu, wonderful, friendly  staff and excellent food! The last couple of times we were at the restaurant, we HAD  to have "Amatriciana" , the most Roman of Roman dishes, as they do it so well, there, and I love it because, like Rome, it's lively, fiery and hot!

Here is my recipe. When I make this in Italy, I buy guanciale, which is a delicious kind of pancetta (in fact, it's not pancetta, which means "belly" but pork "cheek" cured just the same as pancetta, and it gives the dish its  rich flavour) Unfortunately, when I'm not there, I have to use pancetta or a big piece of uncut bacon, which I then cut into  lardon size and shape pieces.
Here is my recipe:
Sugo all'Amatriciana
con Penne
Serves 4
4 tbs olive oil
1 medium onion
1/2 clove garlic
150 g (5oz) pancetta
or bacon
1 small tin tomatoes
1 tbs passata
1 red chilli
or dried chilli
(to taste)
100 g (about 4 oz) Pecorino
or Parmesan cheese 
400 g ( 14 oz) pasta (penne or bucatini)

PS: If I was cooking this dish in Italy
using guanciale, I might omit onion and garlic
and just use guanciale, oil, tomatoes
and lots of Pecorino cheese!

The recipe is easy and the sauce only takes twenty minutes to execute! Before you start cooking, as always, cut your onion into smallish cubes, chop your tiny piece of garlic into even smaller pieces and finally, if you are using a piece of bacon, cut it into thin longish strips ( 3 cm, just over 1 inch) And don't forget the chili pepper! I like to slice mine across, because it looks so pretty. Unfortunately, the chili I bought today wasn't very hot, so I had to add some of the peppers I grew and dried in Italy!

my chillies were also used to garnish an antipasto of
sundried tomatoes and delicious artichokes in olive oil

You should now be ready to cook (don't forget to open your can of tomatoes!)
Put the olive oil in a pan. When really hot, add your onion and garlic, stir for a few seconds, then add your pancetta (or bacon.) Stir well with a wooden spoon and cook until the everything looks golden. Next you need to add your chillies, then the tinned tomatoes. With the help of a fork, squash the tomatoes, so they resemble a pulp, otherwise the will stay whole and will not make a sauce! I added a small quantity of passata, as my tinned tomatoes were a bit watery.

pancetta sizzling in the pan

This is all you need to do. Add some salt and just wait... lower the heat and let your Amatriciana cook for about 15-20 minutes. When the sauce is ready, you will know, as your kitchen will smell delicious!
In pan full of salted water, cook your pasta (you put the pasta in the salted water when this is really bubbling up, not earlier, or you'll make glue) according to the instructions on the packet, or until "al dente." Overcooked pasta is not edible!
When your pasta is done, drain it, then pour into the pan, with the sauce, and mix, adding most of the lovely Pecorino cheese, as you mix. I tore a few basil leaves into my pasta, for colour, but I have to say that I liked the subtle hint of fresh aroma of the basil.

My Penne all'Amatriciana is ready!

 When you serve your pasta, sprinkle more cheese on each serving. You'll love it! If you can get hold of "BUCATINI" (the ideal pasta shape for this dish) you'll be very lucky indeed!


  1. Bellissime foto

  2. Ciao, Gio` e grazie per aver commentato sulle foto. Amo tanto la fotografia e ce la metto tutta, cercando di produrre immagini belle e vive!

    A presto e... mi piace avere un commento in lingua italiana!



  3. Carissima Anna, this all looks fantastic! The photos make my mouth watering! I have never been to Rome but it is one of the destinations I want to visit next! I have heard the food there is.... is there a word for it? Maybe heavenly! Thanks for your comment on my House of Heaven post! Yes, the Chalet is really beautiful! I'll ask my sister-in-law whether you can have it... ;o) Have a nice Sunday evening. I would love to know what you are cooking today. Something Italian? Mmmmh.... Tanti saluti Christa

  4. Hi Christa!

    I won't tell you what I cooked today, because, yes, it was Italian, but it also was the simplest of Italian dishes on Earth and I shouldn't have had it because it was a bit naughty.

    Today I went to this place Back To The Garden Farm Shop - North Norfolk. and I was very, very cheeky, as I asked the butcher to let me have a piece of their organic pork cheek! He went to the back and came back with a pig's head! I was astonished! I told him exactly what cut I needed to make some Guanciale (pig's cheek bacon, from Rome, used to make Amatriciana.) The butcher called the owner over, as he didn't know what to charge me for it, as it's not a cut people usually buy, so he let me have well over 500 g of it, for free as long as, when my guanciale is reay, I bring some back, to show what I made!

    So, here I am, with all this guanciale on the go. It will be good when it's done, if it works, but I'll have to freeze some of it, as I don't really cook lots of rich foods! It was an interesting experience, though!

    PS: your brother's new house is really beautiful! I wish it were mine! And so close to the Alps, which I love! It really is a dream house!



  5. tutto bello e buono. brava anna! pattychef di ritorno da venezia

  6. Ciao Patty e bentornata da Venezia (bellissima in inverno!)

    Anche la tua ultima dolce creazione e` a dir poco fantastica. Hai molto talento.

    Buona serata



  7. Hello Anna,
    I do so wish I could speak Italian to you! But English will have to do for the moment... A lovely looking recipe as always and your photographs made me remember a wonderful holiday with my brother. I had never been to Rome and his partner doesn't enjpy city holidays, so we went for a long weekend. We hadn't been on holiday together since we were children and we had SUCH fun!
    Have a happy week, it has started for us with a beautiful sunrise.
    Jane x

  8. Hi Jane!

    I really don't expect you to speak Italian (after all I chose English as "official" language for my blog!) and I feel that, whichever the language, being able to exchange a few thoughts is really good. And I am pleased I am getting comments from a few fellow Italians, too. I like it!

    I am glad I brought back memories of a lovely weekend with your brother. Memories are good and I feel they somehow "feed" our souls and allow us to travel to the past.

    My photos aren't always fantastic, but what they are is: sunny, warm and colourful, just like Italy, I hope!

    I always love your comments, Jane! Thank you! I hope you had a good week and a VERY GOOD party!



  9. Carissima Anna - I just read your story about the bacon! Very charming! I do not know any butcher here who would have a pig's head in the back! Your luck and fortune though! It means the pig was bread in the region you live in! For many years my family and me had half a pig from the farmers in the Alps. The farmers go up to the mountains with their cows during summertime and produce fantastic cheese. But they have no use for the whey. So they also take a few pigs up to the Alps. To them the whey is a treat and so they eat it. The pigs run around on the lush meadows and have a happy life. In the autumn though... they are slaughtered and if one is lucky one can buy their meat. They are not labelled organic but actually they are. When their meat is roasted it stays the size it had when it was raw. A lot of meat produces water when roasting - a sign of overbred.
    I was pleased to read your comment on my today's post. I do ENVY you seeing London at Christmas time. Maybe you'll show some pics on your blog? That would be fantastic!!! I have been to Harrods last autumn and bought Christmas cards. I'll never forget! Most we loved the food department... Have you ever been to Berlin? If you do go then go to the Kaufhaus des Westens! The food there is incredible as well. We had Irish oysters with Champagne - fresh as fresh can be! I have googled Blicking Hall. Wow! Lucky you! In Switzerland we do not have houses like that as we never had Queens and Kings and not many buildings are that fancy! Well then, enjoy also a little for me! Buona notte!

  10. Christa,

    You are just so lucky! I LOVE the Alps! I can't think of anything more beautiful that I have seen in all my life! I love it when we fly over the Alps and I loved driving "through" them and seeing The Alps, high above me! And those little houses and churches, perched up there, and the green pastures! Wow! Beautiful! But I've never seen pigs in those fields! Pigs are beautiful.

    The farm shop I went to is called "Back to the Nature" and is really fantastic. They have a website. I believe they sell all their produce and even their beer. And yes... it was funny... I was never expecting to be "presented" with Babe's head! My guanciale is coming on well, I must say...

    I have not been to Berlin, yet, but I know it's beautiful. Christa, I love oysters, too. I believe the British ones to be the best... they are so enormous! I fancy one now!

    Well... buona notte to you! I'd better stop, or I'll write a novel, or I'll start talking nonsense!



  11. Hello Anna

    Another delicious post and you amaze me with your dishes. I also love the story of your charming the butcher and getting free pig's cheek.
    Wishing you a great week
    Helen xx

  12. Hello, Helen! I always love hearing from you! I'm glad you liked the story about the pig's head, and you probably wonder why I make these old fashiond things (people in Italy have been buying pancetta and guanciale for yonks!They don't make their own!) Like I was telling a group of people last night, I'm using this blog to somehow perpetuate my mother's life. My hands want to do things I once saw her doing and she can no longer do. Like me, she liked to experiment with old fashioned things, and she was so talented. Everything she touched turned into gold!
    I found a lovely photo of her, when she was young. Her hair was so black! I could never imagine having hair that dark! My sisters and I have always been blond and fair, and so is my very beautiful daughter Gabriella. Rosa looks so sweet, wearing a cute straw hat! I'll have to post the photo, Helen! Now I'm getting a bit... don't know how to describe the feeling, but I know you know...




  13. Oooh, how this brings back good memories from this summer! We were in Rome and were doing the same things you were doing. We love to dress up also before we go out in the evenings! I love Italy and I love their food. And your photos!!! I really like your blog and will be your newest follower!

    Love, Kristin

  14. Hi Kristin!

    And welcome to my blog!

    I am so happy to hear that you had a lovely time in Rome. We love it so much, as it is, like every Italian City, a fantastic mixture of old and new, and a gorgeous place. I love my Italy so much! It's the only place where I can sleep at night, even if I am in a noisy city (and they all are!)

    I hope you continue to enjoy my blog! I'm so glad you like it!

    I just looked at your blog: your photography is great and I wish I could take photos like yours. They are so delicate! Your view of Tower Bridge is lovely and original!