When in a pinch, Village Voice restaurant critic Robert Sietsema cooks pasta with tomato sauce and cured pork guanciale for dinner. It’s his variation on amatriciana sauce from the region of Lazio in Italy, though instead of red pepper flakes he adds a touch of paprika. You can watch him make it in his My Go-To Dish video for CHOW.

What to buy: Bucatini looks like spaghetti but is slightly thicker and has a hole running through the center. If you can’t find bucatini, you can use spaghetti or linguine. Keep in mind, though, that the cooking times of these pastas will vary slightly from the timing below.

  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Total: 40 mins 

Ingredients (11)

  • Salt
  • 1 (4-ounce) piece guanciale, cut into 1-by-1/4-by-1/4-inch pieces (pancetta or bacon can be substituted)
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion (about 1 small)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in tomato purée
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey (optional)
  • Paprika (optional)
  • 1 pound bucatini
  • 1 cup loosely packed, finely grated 18-month-old Parmesan cheese, grated on the small holes of a box grater (about 3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 bunch basil leaves, for garnish


  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.
  2. Heat a large frying pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, reduce the heat to medium, add the guanciale, and cook until the fat is translucent (reduce the heat further it if smokes too much), about 4 minutes. Add the onion and olive oil and sauté until the onion is translucent but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until the alcohol has burned off and the wine has reduced by about half, about 2 1/2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and purée, bring to a boil, then keep at a lively simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt, honey (if using), and paprika (if using) as needed.
  3. Meanwhile, add the bucatini to the boiling water, stir, and boil until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain, add to the sauce, and toss until the pasta is well coated, about 2 minutes.
  4. Divide the pasta among individual bowls. Top each with a heap of Parmesan and 3 to 4 whole basil leaves, then serve.