Let's say pasta is forbidden, you can't eat it, buy it, sell it, dream it anymore. Someone just wakes up and decides there is a pasta prohibition just like in the 20's for alcohol. Imagine the scene of pasta black markets, pasta smuggling, people paying fortunes just for a plate of pasta, those suspiciously eating pasta in dark alleys, those who try to cover the fumes of pasta cooking, those who hide to get drunk with pasta, late night police raids taking your pasta away. Without getting too carried away with my imagination, I think you've got the picture.
Now just like waking up from a nightmare, you realize that pasta is not forbidden and not only is it not forbidden you’re also lucky to have it handy. Stores have millions of brands of all qualities, shapes and sizes. The prices are good, it doesn't cost a fortune. You just need two or three ingredients to make it taste good, it cooks really quick, it's satisfying, it combines easily with just about everything. It adapts to your taste, preference, tendency. You're vegan, throw in the vegetables, you love meat, make a rich ragu, you have a craving for fish, go with the clams. As you know, pasta is all over the place, sold in all food stores, all around the world, you can eat it in any restaurant and cook it in every home.
My point is... pasta is so loved that you can't live without it but, it is also so highly distributed that you need to watch what you purchase. You don't have to be a chef to know how to cook a decent plate of pasta but you do need to make sure you follow two simple rules.
First, quality. A really good quality pasta. Don't save on something that doesn't cost a fortune to start with, a cheap brand can really ruin your wait, so if you want to save, save by buying less but make that less top-notch.
Second, never, never, ever over cook it. It needs to bend but not break, it should be firm but not hard. Cook it "al dente" which literally means to the tooth, you need to bite into it. If you over cook it, then you'll be eating mushy baby food. Yuck.
With these two rules in mind, make yourself some bucatini all’amatriciana. This recipe is so well known in Italy. Here in Rome, every trattoria has it on the menu and everybody has their own saying on how the original recipe should be. Mine was handed down to me by my grandmother who lived her life in Campotosto a little town right next door to Amatrice, which is the town where this recipe comes from. She used just guanciale (cured pork jowl) and pecorino cheese, no onion, no garlic and no wine. Very simple and truly tasty. Of course, I won’t judge you if you vary the recipe with your preferences, by adding the wine, garlic and pancetta instead of the guaciale but...it won’t be how it should be.
400g of bucatini
400g of plum canned tomatoes
100g of guanciale (cured pork jowl)
60g of grated pecorino cheese
Dice the guanciale and put it in a sauce pan, cook the guanciale until it renders some of its fat, drain the excess. Add the tomatoes and very little salt because both the guanciale and the pecorino cheese are salty enough. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, roughly 20 minutes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and the pasta. Cook until it is “al dente”. Drain the pasta, add the hot sauce and sprinkle with abundant pecorino cheese.