Paccheri Pasta Amatriciana is about as simple and tasty as it gets. Large pasta tubes are coated in a spicy tomato and pancetta sauce that will wake up your taste buds. This is a pasta dish you can make quickly that your whole family will devour!
This pasta recipe combines two regions of Italian cuisine to create an easy but incredibly tasty dish. Paccheri pasta from southern Italy and Amatriciana sauce from the town of Amatrice, near Rome. Amatriciana and Carbonara are two of the most popular pasta dishes associated with Rome. They are simple yet unbelievably flavorful.
Table of contents
What kind of pasta is paccheri?
Paccheri, pronounced “pakeri”, is a pasta shape that originated in the Italian region of Campania. It is a very large tubular pasta that looks like giant rigatoni. Similar to rigatoni, paccheri is very versatile. The large tubes are perfect for stuffing with ricotta cheese or Italian sausage. I also love how it’s ridges and folds hold luscious alfredo sauce beautifully and it can even be served with light seafood sauces.
What is Amatriciana sauce?
Traditionally, Amatriciana is made with tomatoes, guanciale (cured pork jowl), pecorino romano cheese and red pepper flakes. The sauce hails from the town of Amatrice, which is between Lazio and Abruzzo near Rome. You will be hard pressed to find a pasta recipe with as much flavor and umph as one made with this traditional tomato sauce. It is even good on really small pastas like Homemade Gnocchetti.
Ingredients you will need, notes and substitutions
As with many of our favorite Italian specialties, you only need a few ingredients of the highest quality to make an amazing sauce.
- Whole San Marzano Tomatoes: I prefer to use tomatoes designated with the geographical indication of being grown in the Sarnese-Nocerino region. It is not necessary to use San Marzano tomatoes but the best quality tomatoes you can find are in order. Because this a quick cooking sauce it is important for the tomatoes to have the best and brightest flavor.
- Crush the tomatoes by hand so you have little chunks.
- Pancetta: As stated above, guanciale is traditionally used when making this sauce, but it is not easy to find outside of Italy. Pancetta is a suitable substitute.
- Pecorino Romano cheese: I know that there are parmesan lovers out there but there really is no substitute for the salty flavor that pecorino romano brings to this sauce.
- Red pepper flakes: There is some debate even among purists, as to whether black pepper or chili pepper is used to create the spicy heat in this dish. In my opinion, I like the chili pepper because I think the amount of back pepper you need to bring the same amount of heat, will alter the flavor of the sauce.
- Paccheri Pasta: This is considered an artisanal pasta shape. Rigatoni are a good substitute if you can’t find paccheri. Other pasta shapes that work well with this sauce are bucatini, spaghetti, rotini or ziti.
Step by Step Instructions
- Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water according to package directions. Reserve a cup of pasta water.
- While the pasta is boiling, cook the pancetta and chili flakes in a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet.
- Add the tomatoes and juices to the pancetta. Season with salt and pepper.
- Toss the pasta in the skillet with the tomatoes and top with pecorino romano cheese. Add some of the reserved pasta water if the sauce is too thick.
- Don’t overcook the pasta. It should be al dente or still a little toothy because it will continue to cook in the sauce.
- The sauce may be done before the pasta is ready. You can keep it warm over low heat and add a little pasta water if it starts to thicken too much.
- Feel free to use more or less of the chili pepper depending on how spicy you like your sauce. You can also pass extra chili pepper at the dinner table for those that really like it spicy.
- I like to pass the pecorino romano at the table as well.
Paccheri is derived from “paccaria” which in the Neapolitan dialect means slap or clap. The sound the noodles make when being stirred sounds like a clap.
A good rule of thumb is to plan on 1/4 lb. of dried pasta per person if the past is your main course.
I recommend you follow the package instructions for how long to cook pasta, but a good estimate is between 7-10 minutes.
Additional Pasta recipes
Pasta is always a good option for a main course, especially if you have picky eaters to please. Here are some of our most popular recipes.
Any baked pasta lover out there? Our Pasta Rustica with Sausage is easy and loaded with gooey cheese.
If a hearty Sunday sauce is more your thing, you will love our Rigatoni Bolognese or Short Rib Ragu with Mafaldine.
Any night of the week is the perfect time for a quick but delicious pasta like Radiatori with Spinach and Sun-dried Tomatoes, Trenette al pesto or Italian Pasta Broccoli.
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Paccheri Pasta Amatriciana
- 1 lb Paccheri Pasta or rigatoni
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- 6 oz Guanciale or pancetta
- 1 tsp Red pepper flakes
- 28 oz Whole canned tomatoes crushed by hand
- ¼ cup Pecorino romano cheese grated
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp Fresh basil cut or torn into ribbons (otional)
- Cook Pasta in a large pot of salted water according to package instructions.
- Heat olive oil in large skillet and add the guanciale or pancetta and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium heat the guanciale is browned and translucent.
- Stir in the crushed tomatoes, then salt and pepper to taste.
- Drain the pasta once it is al dente and add to skillet. Top with with the cheese and fresh basil then toss well. Serve with additional grated cheese.