As summer came to its close, and the autumn leaves started to color, we all felt the bitter sweetness of returning to school and our lives.

The Italian people, however, faced the worst earthquake they had seen in years. The regions of Lazio, Umbria, and Le Marche had experienced earthquakes ranging up to six in magnitude on the Richter scale. The small town of Amatrice, famous for its Amatriciana sauce, was turned into rubble. To honor the town and its people, I’ve prepared a rendition of the sauce while retaining its soul of simplicity.

spaghetti, sauce, pasta, tomato
Angelo Ong

The original ingredients for the Amatriciana sauce includes Guanciale (pork cheeks), Pecorino (sheep milk cheese), and tomatoes. Since Guanciale is difficult to find and can be expensive, the recipe uses bacon to substitute since it's the closest in terms of texture and flavor. The Pecorino cheese can be found at some supermarkets but you can substitute it with something more common like Parmesan.

In this recipe, I will be using spaghetti as the pasta, bacon as the substitute, and Pecorino as the cheese.

#SpoonTip: I've watched numerous videos online of native Italians using this technique, and it introduces an entirely new dimension to pasta sauces. I know, I know—the only real Italian thing about me is my first name. But you have to trust me on this one.

Pasta Amatriciana

  • Prep Time:5 mins
  • Cook Time:15 mins
  • Total Time:20 mins
  • Servings:2
  • Easy


  • 2 servings pasta ~4 ounces
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 strips bacon
  • 2 tablespoons Pecorino cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
wine, cheese
Angelo Ong
  • Step 1

    Wash your two tomatoes and admire their fruitful color.

    tomato, vegetable
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 2

    Slice them into wedges or smaller pieces. Dicing is not necessary since they will be reduced into a sauce later. We want to retain its juices and texture.

    tomato, pepper
  • Step 3

    Take your bacon out.

    bacon, pork, sausage, ham, meat
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 4

    Slice your bacon into small pieces. You can slice them whichever way you want to. We are really just exploiting its savory and smoky flavor similar to Guanciale.

    bacon, pork
  • Step 5

    Ready your servings of pasta. This recipe is enough for two, but in my hand, I have one serving of spaghetti. You can use any kind of pasta, bucatini, tagliatelle, linguine, ramen (just kidding).

    spaghetti, pasta
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 6

    Add about two cups of water into your pot. The reason we want about two cups of water is because we will be using the pasta water later to help reduce our sauce and create more depth.

    The more pasta, the more water. It's best to start off with less than you need because you can always add water as it boils. Drop some salt into the pot of water to help lower the heat capacity and bring to a boil.

    coffee, espresso, milk, cappuccino
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 7

    Place your pasta vertically and please don't snap it in half. Treat it with some respect.

    spaghetti, pasta, wheat, macaroni
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 8

    With a pasta ladle, slowly rake your gluten threads of gold into the boiling abyss.

    pasta, spaghetti, wheat
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 9

    Rake all your pasta until all pieces have softened and none are sticking out stiffly.

    dairy product, egg, milk
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 10

    Start the timer. We should be cooking the pasta for an additional 4-5 minutes to reach 'Al dente.' Stir your pasta with your ladle so it's all evenly cooked and also to remove any potential inter-pasta sticking that might occur. Test your pasta every minute or so to see how close you are to your desired doneness.

    soup, milk, dairy product, cream
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 11

    With a ladle or spoon, save your pasta water. As mentioned above, the right starchiness will help fuse our sauce together.

    milk, cream, dairy product, coffee, sweet
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 12

    Save the pasta water in a bowl.

    milk, dairy product, cream, coffee, tea, soup
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 13

    Strain your pasta. There is no need to run any water through it since we want to retain its starchiness. It actually makes our pasta seem more creamy once it's added with the sauce.

    spaghetti, pasta, sauce, macaroni
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 14

    Toss your bacon slices in the same pot with the pasta emptied. Let it sweat in about medium-high heat with some pepper.

    meat, pork, bacon
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 15

    Place in your slices of tomatoes gently because the bacon grease will start spitting at you (yeah, science).

    Angelo Ong
  • Step 16

    With a wooden spoon or spatula, press your slices of tomatoes against the walls of the pot to flatten them and release more of its umami fluids.

    vegetable, pepper, meat
  • Step 17

    Mushed up, it should look like this. Pretty spectacular.

    vegetable, soup, tomato, meat
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 18

    Flood your tomato-bacon medley with the pasta water we saved on the side.

    vegetable, tomato
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 19

    Add about a tablespoon of olive oil. This helps the sauce reduce while adding another complementary layer of flavor to our sauce. Put a lid on and let her go.

    tea, coffee, soup, espresso
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 20

    Reduce it to the consistency of your choice and it should look something like this.

    vegetable, soup, tomato, meat, tomato sauce
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 21

    The next step is to mix your pasta. I did so in a separate bowl but you could also just mix it in the pot if you have two servings of pasta. I only made one serving so I did the mixing separately. The pasta here looks especially depressing.

    spaghetti, pasta, macaroni, wheat, carbohydrate
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 22

    Take one tablespoon of your cheese, Pecorino used here, and put it together with the sauce and pasta. Most of the cheese should melt with the heat of the sauce.

    flour, cereal, milk, rice, sweet, dairy product, wheat
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 23

    The pasta looks a lot happier now.

    spaghetti, pasta, sauce, tomato, carbohydrate
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 24

    Mix it up.

    spaghetti, pasta, sauce, carbohydrate, macaroni, basil, tomato, spaghetti carbonara
    Angelo Ong
  • Step 25

    Plate and serve!

    spaghetti, sauce, basil, tomato, pasta, spaghetti bolognese, carbohydrate
    Angelo Ong

There are a lot of steps but the entire recipe itself is really simple. It embodies what Italian cooking is. There were only three main ingredients but those three ingredients combined to form an explosion of palate stimulation. 

I love food because it is so universally relate-able. It doesn't matter where you're from or what you know, if it's delicious, it's delicious! Everyone can connect with a dish. Perhaps by making this recipe, you can connect and feel the warmth of Amatrice and honor this contribution they have given to the world.