« Wok Fu - Pork with Mint and Sugar Snap Peas | Main | The Triumphant Return of Morton »

January 22, 2006

A Toast to Patsy

Not the most appetizing intro, I know. But bear with me.

The well-ventilated fellow you see on the right is one Pasqualino "Patsy" Lolordo, an Italian immigrant and mentor to some guy named Alphonse Capone. 77 years ago, he was gunned down in his apartment, and Capone's response was to order a revenge hit that would become known as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Patsy is also lying in front of my fireplace.

With such a notable Chicago mafia landmark in my living room, I felt it was only appropriate that we remember our good pal Patsy on the anniversary of his death. There was Italian accordion music. There was a movie that depicted the slaying. There was a toast with the same beverages being shared by Patsy and his killers (red wine and whisky). And, of course, there was pasta. Rigatoni all'Amatriciana Rossa is not only a well-known pasta dish, but it's also probably my number one favorite comfort food. When I want a pasta that is quick, easy and utterly satisfying, this is the one. Over 43 Movie & Pasta Nights, no pasta has been repeated more than once, except for the Amatriciana, which I've made seven times. Or, more accurately, six times. In its seventh iteration, it was known simply as Patsy's Pasta.

Dominic Armato (click to enlarge)
Patsy's Pasta
(Rigatoni all'Amatriciana Rossa)

1/4 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Small Red Onion, Minced
1 Clove Garlic, Minced
1/4 Lb. Guanciale (or Pancetta), sliced thick and cut into strips
2 C. Tomato Puree
Crushed Red Pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
1/3 C. Grated Pecorino Romano, plus more to top
1 Lb. Rigatoni, al dente

As mentioned, this is a very traditional and well-known pasta from the town of Amatrice. Though it's generally made with bucatini, the restaurant in Rome where I came to adore it, La Maddalena, uses rigatoni, which I've come to prefer. As with any simple pasta, the quality of ingredients is absolutely critical. I use Raineri Silver Foil olive oil, and Carmelina bottled tomato passata, though regular canned Carmelina tomatoes pureed in a blender will do just fine. Also, you have to have good guanciale and pecorino. Though I wouldn't totally discount the possibility, I've never found guanciale or pecorino from a major grocery store that I was happy with. But I like to take the approach that it isn't an inconvenience, but rather an opportunity to hang out in my local Italian grocery or specialty store.

Heat the olive oil over high heat, and when hot, add the onion and garlic. Sauté for 2-3 minutes until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the guanciale and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the guanciale starts to color. Add the tomato puree, red pepper and salt, reduce the heat slightly, and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta. Ideally, the pasta and sauce should be ready at the same time, but if one has to wait, be sure it's the sauce. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, mix in the pecorino and stir to combine thoroughly. Serve with extra pecorino to sprinkle on top, and a glass of red wine or whisky with which to toast Patsy.


Can you recommend a substitute for the pancetta in Patsy's Pasta recipe as I don't eat pork?

Considering the occasion for the meal wouldn't it have been more appropriate to cook an authentic Sicilian dish?

Heh... that's a tall order, Ann!

Speaking as a swine devotee, I'm of the firm opinion that there's no such thing as a substitute for pork fat :-) What makes Amatriciana distinctive is the combination of cured pork and pecorino. You could always use a different meat or omit it altogether, but then it isn't a substitution... it's just a different pasta :-) In a few cases, I've used cured duck breast (sometimes called duck prosciutto, but I hate that term... it's a total misnomer) in place of prosciutto for somebody who doesn't eat pork, but that was always in dishes that were far, far less dependent on the fat. In this dish, it's ALL about the fat and there's really nothing, in my experience, that comes even remotely close to pancetta or guanciale that isn't porcine in origin.

As far as its appropriateness, judging from your last name, it seems that you might have an inside line on Patsy's lineage :-) I could never find anything that nailed down where he was from, and I didn't want to assume. Heck, even Capone wasn't Sicilian. But in any case, as much as I'd love to say there was some deep significance to the pasta selection, it was mostly that we had a busy day and a large crowd, and this is my favorite quick and easy go-to pasta for large numbers.

Hi, I am Giulio, from Italy although now I am living in the Netherlands. I visited to this blog by chance since I was looking for some pasta photos.
Your Amatriciana's recipe is perfect, except for 2 small details:
-Fry guanciale for first untill it turns light-borwn (do not burn it!) and then pick it up and put it in a dish. You'll add it again at the souce at the end, when you'll mix pasta with the souce. In this way you'll keep guanciale crispy (as the original recipe requires).
-After fried guanciale, use the same oil to fry the onions (add half a glass of white wine) and then add tomatoes and chili.
-In summer, if you can, use fresh tomatoes to make to souce (San Marzano or Cuore di Bue varieties), it is by far better.Do NOT use tomaotes for salad, only the varieties I mentioned or similar that is: blood-red, soft and juicy.

This is the ORIGINAL recipe from Amatrice, you described the "Roman" version, that is very good either!

Hey, Giulio...

Thanks for commenting! Not that you need me to tell you, but yeah, my experience with Amatriciana is definitely the Roman version :-)

Truth be told, I don't think I've ever made it in the original style, but maybe I'll make a post of it at some point. Are you from Amatrice?

I am not from Amatrice, but I know very well the place since my place in Italy is only 90 Km far from Amatrice. I am from Foligno, Umbria, almost 150 km north from Rome.
I like cooking, especially now that I am in Holland: my friends from around the World have been nagging me since we met the first time: please Giulio make pasta, or pizza or whatever...

A tip: next time you're in Rome, invest a day to go to Amatrice, the town is along "via Salaria" 100 Km far from Rome. It is nice place to go to, especially in summer since it is at 1000 m above sea level. Two places to go to:
Trattoria da Santino
Albergo Ristorante Roma


Thanks for the recipe; my grandfather would have enjoyed it. I still have the marble table pictured in the left part of the photo.
Ron LoLordo
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Just wanted to thank you for the recipe. I am definitely a novice in the kitchen, and your blog has helped to inspire me to try some new things. Granted, I didn't have as high a quality ingredients as you did in your version, but the 'supermarket' version of this turned out pretty good. I used Cento tomato puree and Alessi Olive Oil along with pancetta. It was also my first time using Pecorino Romano, which lent quite a distinctive flavor to the dish. Hopefully once Top Chef is over with we can see a few more of your pasta recipes. Thanks again.

wow, do you really live where patsy lolordo used to live, on the 3rd floor of the apt building. patsy was head of the unione siciliana and he was a powerfull mafia chief.

The comments to this entry are closed.