I grew up in the 70’s with a father who was an amazing cook. He used to make a spaghetti with bacon sauce that I loved. If I came home from school and asked what’s for dinner and was told this spaghetti, I could hardly wait to eat. It was so good and there was lots of slurping at the table, everyone trying to get every last bit of sauce.
I’ve asked my mom if she remembers how dad made this and she always says she has no idea. So, like so much of my dad’s cooking, I have only memories. Recently a package arrived in the mail from my mom. She was going through my dad’s many cookbooks and found the one with the spaghetti with bacon sauce recipe! It’s from The Pleasures of Italian Cooking, by Romeo Salta. And it’s signed by Romeo and also has some handwritten notes from my dad. How cool is that?!? I did a little research on Romeo Salta. He is largely credited with starting the fine Italian cooking movement in the states and became quite the celebrity chef. His namesake restaurant in New York had a stellar reputation, with many dishes cooked tableside. He was also known for his simple, authentic and honest Italian cooking.
This dish is called Spaghetti all’ Amatriciana, or spaghetti with bacon sauce. I’m pretty sure my dad made it with canned tomatoes. I used fresh roma tomatoes and my sauce wasn’t as “thin” as my dad’s. The sauce also has some bacon, onion and white wine along with the tomatoes. It’s topped with grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese. Simple and so good.
I am so thrilled to have this cookbook and that my mom found it. The recipes are classic and I’m looking forward to trying some of them. I can see why my dad liked this cookbook so much, such a treasure. Papa would be so happy to see me making this spaghetti.
Spaghetti with Bacon Sauce, simple and rustic version of the Italian classic all'Amatriciana, adapted from my dad's Romeo Salta cookbook.
- 1/4 pound bacon, diced
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 pound tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or canned whole Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand (see note below to peel tomatoes)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch crushed red pepper (I added that, not in original recipe)
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
In a large sauce pan, cook the bacon and onion until lightly browned. Add the wine and cook until almost evaporated. Add the tomatoes, black pepper and pinch of crushed red pepper. Stir to combine and simmer on low for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally as the tomatoes release their juices. Taste for salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve ½ cup cooking water, drain pasta and add to the saucepan with half the grated cheese and toss to combine well. Add reserved pasta cooking water if it seems too thick. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and serve.
- To peel fresh tomatoes, drop them in boiling water for about 1 minute. Remove to a colander, skins should easily peel off with a small paring knife.
- For a more authentic Amatriciana sauce, use guanciale or pancetta (about 4 ounces, thinly sliced and then roughly chopped).
*Adapted from The Pleasures of Italian Cooking, by Romeo Salta