Thursday, June 22, 2006

Bucatini alla Matriciana – Paternity Challenged

Bucatini alla Matriciana, long tubular pasta smothered in a tomato, chili pepper, and bacon sauce. If you have been to Rome you have had them. This pasta dish is a stalwart for the purist of Roman cuisine. They are not to be confused with Bucatini all’Amatriciana or Bucatini made according to the traditions of the people from Amatrice, located about ½ hour from Rome.

Heated discussions continue today regarding the origins of this simple but marvelously flavorful dish. While the focus of the dispute may not interest the basic difference between the two sauces is important. The Roman version, the Matriciana, is made with tomato while the Amatricina version does not have tomato. This is important because the primary ingredient, aged ham hocks or pancetta, can be salty. The tomato in the Roman version adds structure and balance. This does not mean that the Amatriciana is not great just that it is simpler in structure and a bit more spicy.

It should also be noted that some restaurants add a bit of cream to the recipe however this is more for the tourists than for the traditionalists. Other variations include crushed peperoncino, small chili peppers, sprinkled over the pasta. Anyway you prepare Bucatini alla Matriciana, it is quick and satisfying, a fantastic summer dish.


1 lb (450 gr.) Bucatini or other tubular pasta, such as penne, rigatoni, or zitti
1/3 lb. (150 gr.) Guanciale, Pancetta or thick sliced Bacon cut into small pieces
4 oz. (100 gr.) Tomato sauce or ripe Roma or Cherry tomatoes
½ cup Olive Oil
crushed peperoncino – these are small dried chilly peppers
1/8 lb. (50 gr.) grated Pecorino


Place the oil in skillet with the Guanciale, Pancetta or bacon and cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the crushed peperoncino to the oil. Stir for about 1 minute. Add the tomato. Salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat to medium low and cook until the tomatoes have broken down and the sauce is smooth. This will take about 10 minutes.

In abundant salted water cook the pasta. Usually this will be about 10-11 minutes depending on the type of pasta. The box will indicate the correct cooking time.

Drain the pasta and pour it into the skillet. Stir together to completely saturate the pasta. Add the Pecorino cheese and serve immediately.

This dish will take about 20-25 minutes from start to finish. A red wine such as Barbera will or Monsordo will be a perfect compliment.


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Blogger Chris said...


Chris (My Blog)

6:03 PM

Blogger ChickyBabe said...

Sounds delicious, and easy to make. I didn't realise there were variations between Matriciana and Amatricina. Which is your favourite?

10:57 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay! This was my favorite thing to eat while in Italy. But, I belieev they were calling it Amatraciana in Rome? I camne home determined to order this every time we had Italian food, but have found that none of the Italian restaurants here serve it ... not even the ones claiming to be the most authentic.

4:59 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Chris - Thanks for stopping by.

ChickyBabe - My favorite is the Matriciana. I think the tomato gives more balance but the interesting thing is there are numerous discussions every year among top gastronomical experts about the validity and origin of this dish.

5:03 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Jennifer - I believe that US Italian restaurants do not serve this because this is comfort food where quality of ingredients and balance make the dish, no garlic to cover up the mistakes.

You can make it at home. It is simple and really fast.

5:06 AM

Blogger a.c.t. said...

I love this sauce, althought I thought the tomato version was all'Amatriciana. Is that with cream then?

5:20 AM

Blogger a.c.t. said...

Mmmm I've decided to make this tonight. I've checked various recipes and la Matriciana and all'Amatriciana see to be the same.

5:26 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

ACT - The cream is not really part of either original sauces. Some restaurants in Rome, and many across Italy, add the cream to "fill out" the sauce. The cream makes the sauce appealing to a wider base of customers.

5:28 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

ACT That sounds great. You can find the differences explained in great detail, along with numerous other links at the following (there are thousands of documents discussing the difference):


BBucatini ala Matriciana

The differences are Matriciana, no onion with tomato, Amatriciana, yes onion no tomato.

Over time, the two have become ever more similar and other ingredients have also entered the equation. One has crushed garlic, another cream, some say the peperonicino must be sauteed with the guanciale others it must only be sprinkled on top of the finished pasta.

While I do not want to get into the discussion of the origins, I do want to help people understand what a great and fast dish this is and to understand that what it should be the basic ingredients when they do order the dish.

I hope your Matriciana or Amatriciana turns out fantastic!

6:35 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

you must also add 1/4 cup of white wine to to the ingredients list! Cook the guanciale white the wine and let it evaporate. I know this as I have been living in Italy for 5 years now... try it, it make a difference. And the Pecorino MUST be pecorino Romano, otherwise it's just not the same. Hope you enjoy!!

4:18 AM

Blogger AndraLee said...

I ordered this at a restaurant last night. It was horrible. The noodles were not hollow, so I assume they weren't bucatini; and they weren't sufficiently. The dish was not spicy and after reading the recipe here and looking at comments that I had Amtriciana. The meat did not look or taste well cooked. When I complained, the manager criticized me for ordering a dish I was unfamiliar with. $14 for a dish I couldn't eat. The man said I should have cut this up with a knife. Is that true. Should I this have been served a plate with a knife and fork instead in a bowl with a fork and spoon?

1:20 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

AndreaLee I am sorry you did not have a good experience. I hope the restaurant was not in Italy. Both your experience and the way the manager responded would not be in line with my experience over the years. Yes, there are some poor restaurants in Italy and some people are rude however the overwhelming majority really know their business.

In Lazio (central Italy around Rome) most trattoria will serve with a fork and spoon. High end places will have a spoon available but it would not be proper to use it. Cutting long pasta is never acceptable.

No matter where the restaurant is located, there is only one way to make matriciana and bucatini, also available in the US, is long thick tube pasta with a hole in the middle, just like a straw.

I would definitely place this restaurant on my list of places never to go again.


4:57 PM


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