Bucatini or Spaghetti Amatriciana


Bucatini or Spaghetti All’ Amatriciana.

Amatriciana is a simple and delicious classic Italian pasta recipe from Lazio with pretty ancient origins. It’s popular with kids and adults alike throughout Italy and abroad!

Bucatini or Spaghetti Amatriciana

Amatriciana comes from Amatrice in Lazio, Italy.

Sadly because of the devastating 2016 earthquake that destroyed much of the town of Amatrice in Central Italy, amatriciana has become a pasta dish that I cannot help but associate with that tragedy. However, I was very touched by how many restaurants here in Italy and abroad raised funds to help the town’s people by donating all or part of the takings from sales of plates of pasta all’amatriciana in the weeks following the quake. (Italians say all’amatriciana but abroad this recipe is often just referred to as amatriciana).

Bucatini or Spaghetti Amatriciana

Of course, Amatrice was already well known for its famous pasta recipe even before the earthquake. This dish is based on typical local ingredients. Traditionally the local people use a cast iron frying pan or skillet to make this dish. The original sauce contains only tomatoes, guanciale (pork cheek), pecorino, red chili pepper and white wine. However, like other classic Italian recipes you can find it made with other ingredients in it!

ingredients for Bucatini or Spaghetti Amatriciana

Some Amatriciana history!

Amatriciana, also called matriciana in the local dialect, was originally just a white condiment (no tomatoes!).  This original version is called ‘alla gricia‘. This was apparently the main meal for Amatrice shepherds. The shepherds carried pieces of pecorino in their packs, along with bags of black pepper, dried pasta, cured pork cheek and lard. Between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries tomatoes were imported to Italy and a tomato sauce was added to the recipe.

pieces of pork cheek (guanciale) in iron frying pan

Amatrice became famous for creating this ‘new’ recipe and in fact the town has held an annual festival in celebration of amatriciana for more than 50 years. In 2016 the festival was cancelled because of the earthquake which happened just a few days before the date of the festival. It was held instead in Rome in December. 

crispy cooked pork cheek (guanciale)

The Romans love Amatriciana!

Although it is not originally from Lazio (during the Kingdom of the Two Siciiys, Amatrice belonged to Abruzzo), amatriciana has become a classic Roman recipe. However, it is more often served with bucatini in Rome and spaghetti in Amatrice. Both pastas work really well in this dish. For this recipe, I used spaghetti but I like it with bucatini too.

peeled plum tomatoes

The people of Amatrice are very strict about the ingredients of this sauce and have been known to take offence when chefs become creative with their own versions. There’s a lovely story of when two Michelin star chef Carlo Cracco confessed that he put garlic in his amatriciana and the Amatrice town council accused him of ‘a lack of judgement’ on their Facebook page!!!

fresh tomato sauce and crispy pork cheek in frying pan

The recipe below is based on the original, except for the use of olive oil instead of lard. Bucatini or spaghetti all’amatriciana is a recipe that everybody loves, especially kids! So, it’s well worth adding to your own pasta repertoire if it isn’t there already.

Bucatini or Spaghetti Amatriciana

If you do try this bucatini or spaghetti Amatriciana recipe, I’d love to hear what you think. Please write a comment here on the blog or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.

Your feedback means a lot to me!

Buon Appetito!

(This recipe was originally published in 2017 but I have updated the photos and text)

Other Classic Italian pasta recipes on The Pasta Project

  1. Tagliatelle Bolognese
  2. Lasagne al forno
  3. Spaghetti alla Carbonara
  4. Bucatini all’arrabbiata

Save this recipe for later?

If you want to save this recipe for later, you can print it, bookmark this page or save it to Pinterest.

5 from 35 votes
Bucatini or Spaghetti Amatriciana
Bucatini (or spaghetti) Amatriciana
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
50 mins

This classic Italian pasta recipe from Lazio is loved by both kids and adults all over Italy and abroad. The Amatriciana sauce is very simple and easy to make yet absolutely delicious

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Central Italy, Italian, Rome & Lazio
Keyword: amatriciana, bucatini, guanciale, spaghetti
Servings: 4
Author: Jacqueline Debono
  • 400 g spaghetti or bucatini (14oz)
  • 150 g cured pork cheek (5oz) Guanciale di Amatrice is the traditional type but you can also use thick slices of pancetta but preferably not the ready cubed one .
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil Some cooks believe it’s not necessary to add oil as the pork is already quite fatty
  • 1/2 glass dry white wine
  • 400 g San Marzano tomatoes peeled
  • 1 fresh peperoncino or teaspoon of dried peperoncino flakes
  • 100 g grated pecorino cheese (3.5oz) Traditionally pecorino from Amatrice which is less salty than other types
  • black pepper
  • salt for pasta and to taste
  1. Thoroughly clean the pork cheek and cut it into small strips. Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water and peel them. Cut them in halves or quarters and remove most of the seeds.

  2. Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Add salt when it starts to boil and bring to the boil again.

  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan (traditionally a cast iron pan) and add the pork cheek and let it brown.

  4. Sprinkle with the white wine. Allow the wine to evaporate and add the peperoncino (if using a whole fresh one, remove before serving)

  5. When the pork cheek is browned nicely, remove it from the pan and remove some of the rendered fat too. Add the peeled and cut tomatoes to the pan and cook on a medium heat until they start to soften. If you think you need more sauce you can add a little tomato passata too.

  6. Put the pork cheek into the sauce with some salt and pepper (taking into account that the pork is quite salty already). Simmer for 10-15 minutes.

  7. Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente in the boiling salted water according to the instructions on the packet

  8. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce with some of the pecorino, keeping the heat very low while you mix everything well together.

  9. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of more pecorino.

Recipe Notes

There are no other ingredients in the original recipe. Some people add onions, garlic, celery or carrot, but the taste of the sauce will change slightly with different ingredients. In Rome, onion is often added.

If you can't find or don't like pork cheek (guanciale) you can also use pancetta.

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Bucatini or spaghetti Amatriciana

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  • Avatar
    March 4, 2019 7:15 pm

    The pork and tomatoes sound like a delicious flavor pairing with the pasta! I can almost taste the flavors!

  • Avatar
    February 26, 2019 11:05 pm

    The pasta looks fabulous..I’m loving your pasta dishes and saving this for later.

    • Jacqui
      February 28, 2019 2:19 pm

      Thank you dear Lathiya! This is a real classic Italian pasta recipe and so delicious! I’m sure you’ll love it!

  • Avatar
    Maman de sara
    February 26, 2019 12:23 am

    I love italian food, that looks yummy

    • Jacqui
      February 28, 2019 2:19 pm

      Thanks so much! We love Italian food too (of course!)

  • Avatar
    February 25, 2019 9:01 pm

    This looks so tasty for a cold winter day! Love all the flavors you packed in there.

    • Jacqui
      February 28, 2019 2:21 pm

      Thanks Julie! This is a super flavourful pasta dish! Very popular here in Italy!

  • Avatar
    February 25, 2019 6:40 pm

    Seems very simple to prepare but absolutely delicious flavors!! I love the back story as well. Can’t wait for our tomatoes to grow so I can make this for dinner!

    • Jacqui
      February 28, 2019 2:23 pm

      Thanks so much Susan. Lucky you having your own homegrown tomatoes! They will definitely make this dish even tastier!

  • Avatar
    Kari Heron | Chef and Steward
    February 25, 2019 5:38 pm

    This is definitely a pasta that my five year old will completely adore! Those tomatoes are just sensational!

    • Jacqui
      February 28, 2019 2:24 pm

      I’m sure your five year old will devour this dish, Kari! It’s very popular with kids here in Italy!

  • Avatar
    February 25, 2019 5:23 pm

    Appreciate the background on how this dish came to be! Can’t go wrong with centuries worth of meals can you.

    • Jacqui
      February 28, 2019 2:25 pm

      Happy you like the background info Jori! I love old recipes. You know they must be good because they’ve been popular for ever!

  • Avatar
    Corina Blum
    February 25, 2019 1:57 pm

    Such a simple pasta dish but it sounds so tasty! Its definitely something that my husband and son would love as well as me.

    • Jacqui
      February 28, 2019 2:27 pm

      Thanks Corina! Often the simplest dishes are the best! I’m also sure your husband and son will love this pasta!

  • Avatar
    Brian Jones
    February 25, 2019 9:28 am

    The fat on that pork looks stunning, I have a version of this dish that uses similarly fatty pork and I love it.

    • Jacqui
      February 28, 2019 2:29 pm

      Guanciale is a favourite of mine Brian because it adds so much flavour to any dish! It’s popular here in Italy, although more expensive than pancetta.

  • Avatar
    February 23, 2019 6:07 pm

    This is pretty much the perfect pasta dish — so simple yet it also has tons of flavor. Love all the pecorino. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jacqui
      February 28, 2019 2:30 pm

      Thanks so much Amanda! I’m thrilled you like this recipe! Yes simple but flavourful, so perfect!

  • Avatar
    February 23, 2019 4:59 pm

    I love good pasta like this – simply flavorful and delicious! Love how easy it is and good to know the origin of this dish.

    • Jacqui
      February 28, 2019 2:31 pm

      Grazie Linda! Yes this recipe is a winner! As you say, simple, flavourful and easy to make!

  • Avatar
    February 23, 2019 12:05 am

    I love the way Italian dishes sound – so unique and so inviting! And it is so interesting to read the stories behind each recipe. Amatriciana is definitely a bright example – can’t wait to make one very soon!

    • Jacqui
      February 28, 2019 2:33 pm

      Thank you very much Mimi! I also love the recipes that have a story behind them and an interesting history! I’m sure you’ll enjoy this dish a lot!

  • Avatar
    February 23, 2019 12:02 am

    I can’t believe this pasta has so much history! But I can certainly believe that it is incredibly popular and delicious. Fantastic recipe!

    • Jacqui
      February 28, 2019 2:44 pm

      Thank you April! Italy has a lot of food history which I love researching! This dish is a classic much loved by Italians!

  • Avatar
    February 22, 2019 9:53 pm

    This pasta dish is so good looking and sounds super delicious – I love how informative your posts are too. Superb! Thank you for sharing yet another wonderful pasta dish which I will definitely make

    • Jacqui
      February 28, 2019 2:45 pm

      Thank you so much dear Ramona! I’m sure you’ll love this dish. It’s full of flavour but easy to make!

  • Avatar
    Kelly Anthony
    February 22, 2019 7:32 pm

    I love simple recipes that are full of rich flavors. This looks delicious and I can’t wait to try another of your pasta recipes.

    • Jacqui
      February 28, 2019 2:46 pm

      Thank you cara Kelly! This is a great pasta recipe. As you say full of flavour! I’m sure you’ll really enjoy it!

  • Avatar
    February 22, 2019 5:01 pm

    I love bucatini but I’ve never heard of amatriciana sauce before, it look sooo good i’ll have to give it a go!

    • Jacqui
      February 28, 2019 2:47 pm

      I love bucatini too Diana! Amatriciana is a classic sauce that’s traditionally served with bucatini in Rome! Italians love it and I’m sure you will too!

  • Avatar
    Karen @ Seasonal Cravings
    February 22, 2019 4:45 pm

    We went to Italy last summer and this reminds me so much of some of the delicious meals we had there. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could recreate some of those at home. Looks like I can!

    • Jacqui
      February 28, 2019 2:50 pm

      Food is great everywhere in Italy Karen, although you find different dishes in different parts of the country! This recipe is from Lazio. I think it’s great to make food from other cuisines at home, especially when it reminds you of your holidays! I’m sure you’ll enjoy this recipe!

  • Avatar
    Heidy L. McCallum
    February 22, 2019 3:11 pm

    Your pasta looks wonderful! I can’t wait to try it. Saving for later.

    • Jacqui
      February 28, 2019 2:51 pm

      Thanks so much Heidy! I’m sure you’ll love this classic Italian pasta recipe!

  • Avatar
    Veena Azmanov
    February 22, 2019 2:41 pm

    We love pasta. And if served like this, i don’t think anyone would say no !! Definitely making it this weekend

  • Avatar
    February 22, 2019 12:16 pm

    This looks so good and sounds easy as well. It would definitely a treat for all the pasta lover.

  • Avatar
    Lesli Schwartz
    February 21, 2019 10:57 pm

    I’m loving all of the ingredients in this pasta dish! I wonder how good it would be with gluten-free pasta? Just curious. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Avatar
    Stine Mari
    February 21, 2019 10:15 am

    Very interesting history to this dish. And I would probably have a lack of judgment as I love garlic. But now I would definitely try it the original way!

  • Avatar
    February 20, 2019 9:14 pm

    Call it whatever you like. I will take pasta any night of the week. What an interesting history on this delicious looking recipe.

  • Avatar
    February 20, 2019 6:49 pm

    Classic Italian dishes are so good, and timeless. I love how you can tweek a little and keep to the basic recipe. A great meal for the family to enjoy together.

  • Avatar
    February 20, 2019 6:47 pm

    This looks like the ultimate bowl of comfort food. I love a good pasta and this sounds fabulous.

  • Avatar
    February 20, 2019 6:19 pm

    Oh I’m so sorry this dish has such a sad connotation. At least it’s incredibly delicious – and you can honor the people there now with it.

  • Avatar
    February 20, 2019 6:14 pm

    I LOVE pasta! this looks as easy as it looks delicious! definitely adding it to my list!

  • Avatar
    February 20, 2019 5:55 pm

    What a fabulous looking dish, love how you added a little extra to a classic spaghetti sauce!

  • Avatar
    February 20, 2019 4:37 pm

    A good pasta sauce is always welcome in my home. I love the fact that this is the original from Italy and has all their best ingredients combined into one tasty sauce. It’s become a favorite in our house too!

  • Avatar
    Helen of Fuss Free Flavours
    February 20, 2019 4:30 pm

    It is lovely to read the origins of simple dishes that we are so used to. A classic pasta dish, easy to make and delicious to eat. It must be very difficult to live with the aftermath of such an awful disaster, such as the earthquake. So lovely that funds were raised from the sales of this dish.

  • Avatar
    Bintu | Recipes From A Pantry
    February 20, 2019 3:15 pm

    What a deliciously comforting pasta dish! This would go down a treat with my family!

  • Avatar
    February 20, 2019 1:59 pm

    I love Italian dishes, so comforting! This looks so authentic I can not wait to try! Pinning for later

  • Avatar
    Danielle Wolter
    February 20, 2019 1:40 pm

    this is seriously one of my favorite italian dishes ever. I love the bucatini and that amatriciana sauce is divine!

  • Avatar
    Amy | The Cook Report
    February 20, 2019 1:28 pm

    This looks like exactly what I’d like for dinner tonight, comforting and delicious!

  • Avatar
    Kate Hackworthy
    February 20, 2019 12:58 pm

    This dish looks so good. And it’s nice to know that although it’s history is tinged with sadness, it’s also now about helping and community, by raising funds for those affected.

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