Music influences so many levels of my life that I can’t not be inspired and influenced by it. I heard this on my way home to cook our Valentine’s Day Charcutepalooza dinner. It couldn’t be a coincidence that it played at that particular moment and it started the evening on a beautiful note.
JR Cash to June Carter Cash: Rose of My Heart
So, to the best partner the world’s ever seen, what better way to say I love you than with pork! Fortunately, my husband has a better sense of romance than I do and he said it with earrings. Not just any earrings either- these were made by one of my favorite local songwriter/musicians, Sarah Siskind. But, in my defense, this wasn’t just any pork either! It was Emerald Glen Farms hog jowls that have been hanging in our basement for the last two weeks waiting for just this occasion.
After much deliberation, I decided that my first taste of guanciale had to be one with some history behind it so Bucatini all’ Amatriciana was to be THE dish. Of course, like any classic dish, there are as many opinions about what should or should not be included as there are cooks. Absolutely no onions! But the Romans included onions! A little garlic is fine! Nope, garlic isn’t traditional! Spaghetti! Buccatini! White wine, no white wine…whew! What’s a girl to do? Well, after much surfing and reading, this is what this girl did:
6-8 oz guanciale, slice 1/4 inch thick then cut in strips 1/4 inch wide and 1 inch long
1 large onion, about 1 1/2 cups, halved then cut in 1/4 inch thick slices
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 quart fresh tomato puree, reduced down to about 3 cups (This was what I had on hand from the summer and couldn’t bear to use canned, imported tomatoes, sorry.)
1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano plus more to pass at the table
1 lb bucatini, cooked until not quite al dente-
Sauté guanciale over medium heat to render the fat but not brown the meat. Drain enough of the rendered fat to leave 3-5 tablespoons in the pan with the meat, depending on how rich you would like your finished dish to be. Add onions and sauté until soft, add garlic and pepper flakes and cook until onions are starting to turn golden and garlic doesn’t smell raw. Add tomatoes and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Adjust salt and hot pepper, if needed. Remove bucatini from it’s cooking water and put it straight into the sauce, adding some of the pasta water as needed to finish cooking the pasta. Add the cheese and enjoy!
Well, that was so delicious in both it’s simplicity and perfect depth of flavor that we each went back for seconds and had to save the Pumpkin Bread Pudding for another night. Easy, amazing, totally delicious and a perfect work-night dinner (provided you started almost three weeks ahead of time with a gorgeous hog jowl).
NOTE: I couldn’t find bucatini anywhere in Nashville! I could get organic strozzapretti (on sale, no less) but no luck on the bucatini until a friend told me about Lazzaroli’s and their beautiful handmade pasta. They also import some dried pasta so I actually had a choice between two different lengths.
“Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess!”
and that brings us to Guanciale Part Deaux also known as Sin on a Plate or frankenbaconcheese according to The Calf and Kid. Can you say “guanciale-wrapped brie”? Yes, lovely, creamy Kenny’s Awe-Brie fried up in my beautiful guanciale. Surprisingly, I had no shortage of friends wanting a part of this so I had to oblige!