Spaghetti all’Amatriciana And Rookie Domestic Mistakes.
My name is Katie. I’m 32-years-old, I’ve been married for 8 1/2 years, I’ve owned 2 homes, renovated 2 kitchens, cooked countless meals, and yet I still — I still — make rookie domestic mistakes.
I don’t know the best way to clean my hardwood floors, the “wrinkle release” setting on my dryer is my household best friend, my shower curtains get moldy, I own 2 Christmas decorations (a tree and a wreath), 1 Halloween decoration (a sign), and 0 rolls of wrapping paper because I don’t want the responsibility of figuring out where to store all of it, and I refused to use our new gas stove until I’d purchased a fire extinguisher to keep within reach, because guys. It’s me we’re talking about. This stuff just doesn’t come naturally to someone like me.
And most of these things, honestly, I couldn’t care less about. I just continue to comically stumble along, not terribly concerned that I sometimes have dog hair tumbleweeds and our neighbors think we’re not very festive.
But I do have an Everest — That dream peak of domestic achievement which, if I ever manage to summit it, will help me feel like the last 8 years of pretending to know what I’m doing have entirely paid off. It’s cooking, you guys.
Cooking is my Everest.
If there is one place in my home I dream of making Pinterest-worthy, it’s my kitchen and the stuff that comes out of it. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, it seems to be the more I practice, the less I know.
I’m still on a bit of an Italian kick here at home. You’d think after two weeks of gluttony in the real deal that I’d be sick of it, but apparently winter makes me crave all of those delicious starchy carbohydrates something fierce. And while I’ve had several failed attempts at recreating the dishes I learned to make in-country (and a curious lack of desire to hand-roll pasta dough), I’ve had some success at making some Italian dishes I’ve found online.
With dried, store-bought pasta, of course.
One of my favorite resources for unique recipes is Saveur — both the magazine and the website. Their publication is as much about the writing as it is the food, and the photography is gorgeous. Plus, the website has fantastically informative short videos accompanied by old-timey music. They’re adorable. It’s how I learned how to julienne a carrot. All you need is Todd Coleman and a really nice knife.
It’s my dream that Todd Coleman will invite me to spend a day in the Saveur test kitchen as an honorary taster — where I won’t have to actually do anything, mind you, except taste. And sip wine. And I’ll be so good at it that they’ll offer me a part-time job as official Saveur taster, flying me in to New York once every couple of months to test all of the new recipes. And I’ll have an official spoon which they’ll keep in a shadow box on the wall while I’m gone.
Hey. It’s okay to dream big.
Anyway. Knowing how to julienne a carrot is especially handy skill to have when making their version of Spaghetti all’Amatriciana, which, according to many of the reviewers, isn’t anywhere close to spaghetti all’amatriciana in the traditional sense, but who really cares because it’s amazing?
But back for a second to my kitchen incompetence. I know how to julienne a carrot. I know how to simmer a sauce. I know how to toss the al dente pasta in with the said sauce so that every noodle is coated in deliciousness, just like they do in Italy. (They don’t serve naked noodles with sauce glopped on top. It’s just not done.)
What I don’t know, apparently, is how long a true tomato sauce has to simmer in order to break down those ‘maters and let the miracle happen.
Which is why, at exactly 6:38 on a Sunday evening, I discovered Justin and I wouldn’t be eating for a very long time.
All of you loyal Facebook friends thought it was hilarious.
Fortunately the finished product was well worth the wait, but if you’re hoping to eat before 9:00 p.m. like we do here in ‘Merica, you might want to get the sauce started a tad sooner.
Spaghetti all’Amatriciana (but not really)
12 oz. thick-cut bacon
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 medium carrots, finely chopped (I used the julienne method and then cut them again the other direction for a fine dice)
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 sprig fresh rosemary
4-5 sage fresh leaves
2 tbsp. red wine (I used a nice pinot noir, but a good Italian wine would be tasty, too)
1 (28-oz). can whole, peeled tomatoes with juice
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
1 lb. dried spaghetti
Finely grated pecorino, to garnish (I used fresh parmesan, since I already had it in the fridge.)
Thinly sliced parsley, to garnish (I omitted, because parsley tastes like paper.)
1. Slice the bacon into 1/4″ strips and cook in a large saucepan over medium heat until crisp. (The fat will render, or “melt,” and this is a good thing.) Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels, leaving all of that delicious rendered fat, or grease, in the pan.
2. Add your 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter to the pan and let it melt, then toss in your diced carrots and onion, seasoning generously with salt. Stir them around for about 6 minutes until soft, then add the sprig of rosemary, 4-5 sage leaves, and half (2 cloves) of your minced garlic. Stir for about 2 minutes, until those intoxicating fresh herb smells make your mouth water.
3. Stir in the 2 tablespoons of wine to deglaze the pan and scrape up any tasty bits that have browned on the bottom, then let that simmer for about 5 minutes until the wine has evaporated. Finally, add the can of whole tomatoes with juice, crush them a bit with the back of a spoon, bring to a boil, then partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium low and let simmer for around two hours. This will break those whole ‘maters down, reduce the liquids, and make your house smell incredible.
4. When the sauce is done simmering, remove the sprig of rosemary and whole sage leaves, then use an immersion blender to puree until smooth. (You could use a regular blender, but I much prefer my immersion blender for hot sauces and soups because it’s easier to clean and helps me avoid second-degree burns. But whatever floats your boat.) Once pureed, add the cooked bacon, rest of the garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of dried chile flakes to the sauce and stir. TASTE it to see if it needs more salt, then keep warm on low heat until the pasta is cooked.
5. When your sauce nears the end of its simmer time, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the spaghetti approximately 8 minutes until al dente. Drain and toss it directly into the sauce. Do NOT keep them separate and glop your sauce over the top like an amateur. Go ahead and mix it all in. Get crazy. It’s liberating.
If you want to get super fancy, swirl a giant blob of it onto a fork, then slide it off into the middle of an over-sized plate and stick a couple of sage leaves on top like a decorative Victorian hat.
Serve it with the wine you used in the sauce and then eat, one deliciously swirled forkful at a time, pretending you knew what you were doing all along.
Trust me — it will make you feel better.
P.S. Today is Justin’s birthday! Tonight we’re going out to eat barbecue because it’s his birthday so he gets to choose. But I’ll probably be thinking about this pasta while I eat it.