Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

This quick dish is one of my favourites on nights when I have no idea what to make for dinner and don't want to spend lots of time fussing.  The dish takes 45 minutes to prepare.  I have also found it an easy dish to make when we are traveling - the ingredients are pretty common and I always find them in local grocery stores.  The fennel might be harder to find, depending where you are, but I always bring my own selection of dried herbs and spices from home in my kitchen travel bag.

While this may not be an entirely authentic Italian version, I think it has all the flavours of the Italian dish and lends itself to easy substitutions.  In a traditional version, there would be pancetta.  I usually have bacon at home, rather than pancetta, so that's what I tend to use.

The last time I made it I used 1 cup of chopped cherry tomatoes and 1 cup of canned tomatoes.  It's what I had on hand - I wanted to use up the cherry tomatoes before they spoiled.  If you don't like fennel, then don't put it in.  The dish won't be bad, it will taste different yes, but even if you made it like mine, it would probably taste different.  This is part of the joy of cooking for me.  To me the dish is about the entire well-rounded flavour you get from the tomatoes, onion, and bacon.

The finished sauce

Friends will often ask for a recipe for a dish that I make.  They get the recipe, make the dish and say although theirs was good, it didn't taste like mine.  I guess you'll have to come over and let me make it for you instead.

Here's what you'll need to make my version for two:

1/2 box of spaghetti
4 slices of bacon, cut into thin slices
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
1/2 cup chopped white onion
3 cloves of garlic, pressed
2 teaspoon fennel seed, freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon of chili flakes
2 cups of tomatoes, chopped (preferably fresh0
Salt and pepper to taste


- In a large skillet, saute the bacon over medium high heat.  If your bacon is on the lean side, this is where you can add the olive oil
- If the bacon is browning too fast, turn down the heat - what you're looking for here is cooked, but not too crispy.  This should take about 10 - 12 minutes
- Add the onion and saute another 4 - 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent, but not browned
- Next add the ground fennel seed and chili flakes (I use a small mortar and pestle to grind the fennel - I like the texture and the result the hand grinding gives the fennel)
- Saute for 1 minute then add the tomatoes.  Simmer the sauce for 15 - 20 minutes, until it looks homogeneous and you can't see the individual pieces of tomato anymore.  The sauce should be thick.
- Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the box - cooking to an al dente texture
- When the sauce is done, using tongs, take the pasta out of the cooking water and put into the sauce

- Finish the pasta in the sauce for one minute, then serve.

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

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