Pasta all’amatriciana is one of my winter fallbacks.  It’s classic Roman comfort food. A bacon tomato sauce? Bring it!

It is often made with guanciale (pork jowels) but pancetta or any high-quality American bacon will do. I made this dish on Christmas Day for my family after we unwrapped presents. My father loves when I make pasta, constantly shadowing me as I pull the pasta from the boiling water (salted as heavily as the sea) two minutes before the package says it should be served, tossing it with a bit of the sauce in the saucepan to marry the noodle and condiment. Remember, the noodle is the star. Use the sauce sparingly. Never flood your pasta bowl with ladle after ladle of sauce. For some creaminess, I added a dollop of fresh ricotta and a nice drizzle of some good-quality olive oil.

Recipe after the jump.

Pasta all’amatrciana

Makes about six cups

8 slabs of thick-cut bacon or 1/2 pound of pancetta or guanciale, diced.

2 red onions, sliced thinly

5-6 garlic cloves

2 cans of whole tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)

red pepper flakes

pasta-bucatini or pictured above, parpadelle rigate

Ricotta and Pecornio Romano for finishing

1. Render the fat from the bacon in a large sauce pan.

2. Remove the strips or diced pancetta or gaunciale once they are cooked. Drain on a paper towel. If using bacon, cut into 1 inch bits.

3. Remove all but 1/4 cup of pork fat from sauce pan. Turn heat to a medium-high and saute the red onions, adding some salt and pepper. Saute until translucent.

4. Add the garlic and saute some more.

5. If ingredients are sticking to the pan, add a little white wine or tap water and scrape up all the brown bits.

7. Crush tomatoes with your hands and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat so the sauce simmers for about 10-15 minutes. Taste. Adjust seasonings, if you need to.

8. Heat a large stock pot filled with water. When it boils, add several tablespoons of salt and add pasta. Cook pasta two minutes less than specified on the pasta package.

9. For a pound of pasta, you should toss it with no more than two cups of sauce. Keep that much sauce in the saute pan and reserve the extra sauce on the site. This will keep in the fridge for a week or freeze well for up to 3 months.

10. Before draining pasta, reserve 1  cup of pasta water. Drain the pasta and add to the two cups of sauce in the saute pan. Turn up the heat and saute and stir. If it looks too tight, add a little bit of the pasta water. If it’s too loose, cook until it thickens and slightly tightens. Cook for no more than a minute.

11. Remove from heat. Sprinkle about a 1 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes over the pasta. Toss to combine.

12. Serve pasta in warmed bowls. Add a dollop of ricotta and sprinkle with freshly-grated pecorino cheese. Spritz with olive oil and serve.