Amatriciana 1 (Cheater’s Amatriciana)

One of my long-time cooking goals has been to achieve a delicious pasta sauce that can be made in the time between putting the pasta in the water and draining it, and that has minimal clean-up and non-perishable ingredients, so you can have them constantly on-hand.

The winning sauce is a variant on Amatriciana, a rich, tomato based red sauce with onion and pancetta, and with my modifications, it can be prepared in five minutes.  The effort to quality ratio was also a dominant factor in the development of this recipe.  While a fresh red sauce is better than most jar sauces, it’s generally only a bit better, and the small difference makes the effort of making something from scratch and cleaning it up hard to justify.  Thus my goal was a sauce that can be created in 5 minutes, which generates minimal clean-up, and tastes considerably better than jar sauce.

(I have yet to develop an effective vegetarian substitute, I’m sad to say.  It genuinely needs the meat.)

Ingredients (makes enough for 2/3 lb. pasta).  All quantities easily variable.

  • One standard can crushed tomato
  • Approx. 6 oz. diced pancetta (or substitute thick-cut bacon, NOT maple flavor!)
  • 3-5 tablespoons dried onion (or one small fresh diced white or yellow onion)
  • Approx ½ cup white cooking wine (or apple juice, cider or mead)
  • Garlic: fresh or frozen, 2-3 cloves for normal people, 5-7 cloves for garlic nuts
  • Spicy red pepper (ground is best, flake or fresh also good)
  • Salt
  • Optional olive oil


  1. Put on pasta water to boil.
  2. Wait until water is boiling; add noodles.  (If cooking something super fast like angel hair, you need more time and should start sauce earlier)
  3. Turn on heat under large sauce pan.
  4. Add diced pancetta/bacon to pan and let cook until some liquid fat starts to accumulate, less than one minute.  (If using whole frozen garlic cloves, add them now, along with 2 tbsp. olive oil)
  5. Add white wine and dried onion.  Let cook until onion is soft and turning from golden to brown, approx. 2-3 minutes.  (If using finely sliced fresh garlic, add it now)
  6. Add a few pinches of salt (say ¼ tsp. to start, then taste and see) and a little spicy red pepper.
  7. Once garlic and onion are tender and yummy, dump in tomato.
  8. Simmer until tomato is hot.  Done.

    Sauce finished, pasta just about ready to dump, and I even had time during cooking to take photos.
  9. Rinse pan right away, ideally using the boiling water from draining the pasta.

See also the recipe for “real Amatriciana” as made in its native town of Amatrice.  Anyone from Amatrice would certainly call my cheating version some form of sacrilege, but they don’t have my evening schedule.

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