Perciatelli all’Amatriciana – Seattle Style

I, along with a couple of friends, recently visited a good buddy of ours in Seattle. Well, we went to “Lebowski Fest” actually. That was fun, but the trip was really an excuse to share beers with friends, see the sights of the absolutely wonderful city of Seattle (the weather was just perfect BTW), and eat some good food of course. We had good seafood by the ocean, walked for hours around the amazing Pike Place Market and enjoyed delicious grilled cheese and mac and cheese at Beecher’s. One of the best meals we had was one that our host made, a simple Amatriciana sauce made with guanciale from Salumi and served with dried tagliatelle and many glasses of red wine.

Let me back up a little here. I knew if there was one place I was going to go to in Seattle it would be Salumi. This is a small sandwich shop run by Armandino Batali (Mario’s dad). It’s not just any sandwich shop though. Armandino makes his own salami, culatello, coppa, porchetta and many other wonderful cured meat products. We got three large sandwiches with different fillings. One was filled with a special salami flavored with citrus zest and cardamom and all had different cheeses along with onions and peppers. We also had a side order of lomo (cured pork loin) for good measure. We sat at a communal table and enjoyed a bottle of red with our food. That was a simple but memorable meal and a lot of good food for two people, but I figured I probably won’t be back to Seattle for some time so I indulged.

Our host makes his Amatriciana sauce with nothing more than sautéed guanciale, a red onion, shallot and canned tomatoes. It’s much less involved than most you would see in books or online that use herbs, a tomato sauce and garlic. The sauce he made was porky and outstanding so I wanted to make something similar with the piece of guanciale I brought home with me as soon as possible.

So, my Amatriciana sauce was simple with one addition, a clove of garlic. Other than that it was the “Seattle” Amatriciana. For pasta, bucatini is traditional, I had perciatelli on hand which as far as I can tell is more or less the same. They are both spaghetti looking noodles that are hollow. Most versions in restaurants here and in cookbooks recommend substituting pancetta or bacon for the tougher-to-find guanciale. That makes a good sauce, but really nothing quiet compares to cured pig jowl. It is very flavorful and fatty without being cloying and has a firm slightly gelatinous and toothsome texture that is downright addictive. Everyone should try this sauce at least once with guanciale to see what I am talking about.  I have a fresh pig jowl in the freezer from Harrison Hogs Farms that I plan to cure soon. We’ll see how that compares to Salumi’s gold standard.

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