Paccheri Amatriciana: Discovering the Classic Italian Pasta Dish

Introduction to Paccheri Amatriciana

Paccheri Amatriciana is a quintessential dish in Italian cuisine, embodying the rich culinary traditions of Italy. This dish is a harmonious blend of Paccheri, a large tubular pasta, and Amatriciana sauce, a spicy and savory tomato-based sauce. The origins of this dish can be traced back to the town of Amatrice, near Rome, making it a staple in Roman and Italian cooking.

The popularity of Paccheri Amatriciana lies in its simplicity and the depth of flavors it offers. The dish is not just a meal; it’s a celebration of Italian heritage and culinary craftsmanship. The large tubes of Paccheri pasta, originating from the Campania region in southern Italy, are perfectly designed to hold the rich and spicy Amatriciana sauce, creating a delightful and satisfying eating experience.

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In the next section, we will delve into the specifics of Paccheri pasta and Amatriciana sauce, uncovering the history and culinary significance of these key components of the dish. Stay tuned for a journey into the heart of Italian cuisine.

What is Paccheri Pasta?

Paccheri, pronounced “pah-KEH-ree”, is a distinctive pasta shape that hails from the Italian region of Campania. Known for its large, tubular form, Paccheri resembles giant rigatoni and is celebrated for its versatility in various Italian dishes. Here are some key aspects of this unique pasta:

  • Origin and Characteristics: Paccheri originated in southern Italy and is particularly popular in Neapolitan cuisine. Its size and shape make it ideal for capturing and holding rich, hearty sauces.
  • Culinary Uses: Due to its large size, Paccheri is often used in baked pasta dishes, stuffed with fillings like ricotta cheese or Italian sausage. It’s also excellent for holding thicker sauces, making it a perfect match for the robust Amatriciana sauce.

Understanding Amatriciana Sauce

The Amatriciana sauce, a staple in Roman cuisine, is known for its rich flavor and slightly spicy kick. This sauce is traditionally made with guanciale (cured pork jowl), Pecorino Romano cheese, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes. Here’s a closer look:

  • Historical Background: The sauce originates from Amatrice, a town situated between the regions of Lazio and Abruzzo, near Rome. It’s one of the most renowned pasta sauces in Italian cuisine, alongside Carbonara.
  • Key Ingredients and Flavor Profile: The traditional Amatriciana sauce is a blend of savory guanciale, tangy Pecorino Romano, ripe tomatoes, and a hint of heat from red pepper flakes. The sauce boasts a balance of richness, saltiness, and spiciness, complementing the Paccheri pasta perfectly.

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In the following sections, we will dive into the ingredients and step-by-step instructions for preparing Paccheri Amatriciana, ensuring you can recreate this Italian classic in your own kitchen. Stay tuned for these culinary insights and tips.

Ingredients and Substitutions for Paccheri Amatriciana

Creating an authentic Paccheri Amatriciana requires specific ingredients, each contributing to the dish’s unique flavor profile. However, understanding possible substitutions can help adapt the recipe to different tastes and availability. Here’s a more detailed look:

Primary Ingredients

  • Paccheri Pasta
    • Description: Large, tube-shaped pasta, ideal for holding thick sauces.
    • Substitutions: If Paccheri is unavailable, rigatoni, bucatini, or even penne can be used as they similarly capture the sauce well.
  • Guanciale
    • Description: Cured pork jowl, known for its rich flavor and fat content, which is crucial for the sauce’s depth.
    • Substitutions: Pancetta is the most common substitute. In its absence, thick-cut bacon can be used, though it will add a smokier flavor.
  • San Marzano Tomatoes
    • Description: These Italian tomatoes are celebrated for their sweet flavor and low acidity, making them perfect for sauces.
    • Substitutions: Any high-quality canned plum tomatoes can work. For a fresher sauce, ripe cherry tomatoes, crushed and simmered, can be a good alternative.
  • Pecorino Romano Cheese
    • Description: A salty, hard cheese made from sheep’s milk, adding a sharp, tangy flavor to the dish.
    • Substitutions: Parmesan cheese can be used, though it will alter the flavor slightly, being less sharp and salty.
  • Red Pepper Flakes
    • Description: Adds a subtle heat to the sauce.
    • Substitutions: Freshly chopped chili can be used for a similar effect. For a milder sauce, reduce the quantity or omit it entirely.

Additional Ingredients

  • Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil is preferred for its flavor.
  • Salt and Black Pepper: For seasoning. Adjust according to taste.
  • Fresh Basil (Optional): Adds a fresh, aromatic touch to the finished dish.
  • Garlic (Optional): Some variations include garlic for an extra layer of flavor.

Tips for Choosing Ingredients

  • Quality Matters: The simplicity of Paccheri Amatriciana means the quality of each ingredient is paramount. Choose the best quality you can find and afford.
  • Freshness: Fresh, ripe tomatoes and high-quality cheese can significantly elevate the dish.
  • Regional Variations: Depending on the region of Italy, there might be slight variations in the recipe. Embrace these differences to explore a range of flavors.

By carefully selecting your ingredients and understanding suitable substitutions, you can create a delicious Paccheri Amatriciana that honors the traditional Italian recipe while catering to your personal taste or ingredient availability.

Step-by-Step Cooking Instructions

Follow these detailed steps to prepare Paccheri Amatriciana:


  • 400g paccheri pasta
  • 200g guanciale (or pancetta), finely chopped
  • 400g canned San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red chili, deseeded and sliced
  • 100g Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste


  • Large pot for boiling pasta
  • Frying pan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Cheese grater


Prepare the Ingredients

  • Chop the guanciale into small pieces.
  • Finely chop the onion and slice the red chili.
  • Grate the Pecorino Romano cheese.

Cook the Guanciale

  • Heat a frying pan over medium heat.
  • Add the guanciale and cook until it’s lightly golden and crispy.
  • Remove the guanciale and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan.

Make the Sauce

  • In the same pan, add the chopped onion and chili. Cook until the onion is translucent.
  • Add the crushed San Marzano tomatoes to the pan.
  • Season with salt and pepper, and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.

Boil the Pasta

  • In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add salt.
  • Cook the paccheri pasta until al dente, following the package instructions.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of pasta water.

Combine Pasta and Sauce

  • Add the cooked pasta to the sauce.
  • Toss the pasta in the sauce, adding a bit of the reserved pasta water if needed to loosen the sauce.
  • Add the cooked guanciale and mix well.


  • Serve the pasta hot.
  • Sprinkle with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
  • Enjoy your delicious Paccheri Amatriciana!

For those who love to explore the world of Italian breads as an accompaniment to pasta dishes, our article on “Costco Gluten-Free Bread: Quality, Variety, and Savings” offers insights into delicious and healthy bread options that can complement your meal.

Culinary Tips and Tricks

To ensure your Paccheri Amatriciana is as authentic and delicious as possible, keep these tips in mind:

  • Pasta Cooking: Aim for al dente texture, as the pasta will continue to cook slightly in the sauce.
  • Sauce Consistency: If the sauce thickens too much, use the reserved pasta water to adjust the consistency.
  • Flavor Adjustments: Feel free to tweak the amount of chili pepper based on your preference for spiciness.

In the next section, we will explore the nutritional aspects of Paccheri Amatriciana and provide answers to frequently asked questions about this beloved Italian dish. Stay tuned for these valuable insights.

Nutritional Information of Paccheri Amatriciana

Understanding the nutritional aspects of Paccheri Amatriciana is crucial for those mindful of their diet. Here’s a brief overview:

  • Caloric Content: This dish is relatively high in calories, primarily due to the pasta and guanciale. A single serving can be quite filling.
  • Protein and Fats: The guanciale or pancetta provides protein and fats, while the Pecorino Romano adds additional fat content.
  • Carbohydrates: As a pasta-based dish, Paccheri Amatriciana is high in carbohydrates.
  • Dietary Fiber: Depending on the type of tomatoes used, the dish can offer a decent amount of dietary fiber.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Tomatoes contribute vitamins A and C, while cheese adds calcium.

Frequently Asked Questions about Paccheri

  • What is Paccheri?
    • Paccheri is a type of Italian pasta, characterized by its large tube shape. Originating from the Campania region, particularly Naples, it’s known for its ability to hold hearty sauces and fillings.
  • How is Paccheri traditionally cooked?
    • Traditionally, paccheri is boiled in salted water until it reaches an al dente texture. It’s often paired with robust sauces like a meat ragù or a simple tomato sauce. In some recipes, paccheri is also baked with layers of cheese and sauce.
  • Can Paccheri be used in vegetarian dishes?
    • Absolutely! Paccheri is versatile and can be adapted to vegetarian diets. It pairs well with vegetable-based sauces, cheese fillings, or even a simple mix of olive oil, garlic, and herbs.
  • What are some popular fillings for stuffed Paccheri?
    • Popular fillings include ricotta and spinach, minced meat with herbs, a blend of cheeses, or even seafood mixtures. The large size of paccheri makes it ideal for generous and flavorful stuffings.
  • Is there a gluten-free version of Paccheri?
    • Yes, gluten-free paccheri made from alternative flours like rice or corn flour is available for those with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease.
    • For those exploring gluten-free options in their culinary adventures, understanding the versatility of gluten-free ingredients is key. While traditional paccheri is made from wheat, gluten-free alternatives can be used to recreate this dish. Discover more about gluten-free cooking in our comprehensive guide, “The Comprehensive Guide to Gluten-Free Bread Flour”, which offers valuable insights and tips for gluten-free pasta making.
  • How can I prevent Paccheri from sticking together while cooking?
    • To prevent sticking, use a large pot with plenty of boiling water and stir the paccheri occasionally, especially during the first few minutes of cooking. This helps to keep them separated.
  • What are some creative ways to serve Paccheri?
    • Beyond traditional methods, paccheri can be served in innovative ways such as vertically plated for a modern presentation, or as part of a pasta salad with fresh vegetables and a light dressing.
  • How long can cooked Paccheri be stored?
    • Cooked paccheri can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. For best results, reheat with a bit of sauce or water to prevent it from drying out.
  • Can Paccheri be used in cold pasta dishes?
    • Yes, paccheri works well in cold pasta dishes like pasta salads. Its size and texture hold up well with various dressings and mix-ins.

These detailed FAQs provide a deeper understanding of paccheri, covering its preparation, versatility, dietary adaptations, and serving suggestions.

Conclusion: Embracing the Essence of Italian Cuisine

In conclusion, Paccheri Amatriciana is not just a dish; it’s a celebration of Italian culinary artistry. Its simplicity belies the depth of flavor and history it carries. This dish is a testament to the Italian philosophy of cooking – using a few high-quality ingredients to create something truly magnificent.

Whether you’re enjoying it in a cozy trattoria in Rome or in your own kitchen, Paccheri Amatriciana offers a taste of Italy’s rich culinary heritage. It’s a dish that invites experimentation and adaptation, allowing both novice cooks and seasoned chefs to put their own spin on a classic.

For those interested in expanding their culinary repertoire with more Italian classics, exploring different types of sauces and their origins can be a delightful journey. Our article, “Paccheri: A Guide to Italian Pasta’s History and Versatility”, delves into the diverse world of Italian pasta dishes, offering insights into various sauces and their pairings with different pasta types.

As you embark on your journey to recreate this iconic dish, remember that cooking is as much about the process as it is about the result. Take the time to savor the aromas, the textures, and the flavors. Let Paccheri Amatriciana be more than just a meal; let it be an experience that transports you to the heart of Italy.

Buon appetito!


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