Pasta, Pizza, Risotto

Bucatini alla ‘Matriciana’. The real deal

Nicoletta August 11, 2017

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Bucatini alla ‘Matriciana’, a classic Roman pasta dish, that combines a flavorful tomato sauce made with guanciale, onions, wine, Pecorino Romano, and bucatini pasta, leaving you with an exquisite and rich rustic dish.  

Song of the day: “Thunder” – Imagine Dragons.

Bucatini alla Matriciana

I’m writing this post while we’re on holidays in Italy, wishing we heard a thunder and see some bolts of lightning in the sky to announce the imminent rain. With Loreto, we said we would go out in the street to dance underneath the downpour, to freshen up, to feel our skin finally cool off. We’re waiting for some rain since we arrived here, a couple of weeks ago, waiting for the temperatures to go down a bit from the 40 degree average, but still nothing. Dry and extremely hot, I am the one who’s suffering from the heat more than him. Me, the one who should be used to the weather, me, always complaining about the cold Canada.


Rome greeted us with affection from family and friends, among boiling temperatures and desert-like scenery. They haven’t seen rain in a while here, fires have been bad, the sky is opaque, the humidity super high. The only relief from the heat is the beach or the pool. But if you need to take the car to go anywhere, and you parked it in the sun, it feels like entering a circle of hell. The other day we wanted to escape the house and its sticky, hot, and humid air to go to the pool, but the car was parked in the sun and the temperature inside was 48° C. We cranked the A.C. on and we concentrated on our destination: a cool clear water pool. Loreto imagined steam coming off his skin as he jumped in the pool, lol.

You would think that cooking and eating would be the last thing on your mind at these temperatures, but you would be greatly mistaken. In Italy wood fire ovens, stoves, ovens are still going full throttle as nothing stops an Italian from the ultimate passion: food, and eating.

My family’s passion for pasta, for example, never stops. Rain or shine, hot or cold, they eat pasta every day. We were doing some shopping at Eataly Roma and my father said he had some guanciale and pecorino romano in the fridge, so, among many other things, we brought home bucatini to make one of his favorite pasta dishes: Bucatini alla ‘Matriciana’.

Bucatini alla MatricianaBucatini alla Matriciana

It is not a mistake that you’re reading ‘Matriciana‘ instead of Amatriciana. This sauce is the “real deal” in Rome, where they say the Matriciana sauce was actually born before being transferred to Amatrice, a small town north-east of Rome, where its inhabitants created a revised and corrected copy: white and without onion in Amatrice, with tomato sauce and onion in Rome. The invention of the Matriciana is claimed by the Romans, who would only be “inspired” by the shepherds coming from Amatrice who during the summer months used to go to Rome to sell their dairy products and meats.

Although this seems to be the true story of the Matriciana, even in Rome there is a constant passionate exchange about the ingredients in the sauce. The use of guanciale is a must (otherwise it cannot be called Matriciana), together with Pecorino romano, fresh pureed tomatoes, e.v.o. oil, dry white wine, a pinch of peperoncino (chili pepper). The main controversy is about the onion. For some, adding it to the sauce is a “sacrilege”, for others, there’s no other way. I’ve been taught by a true zealous Roman to add sauteed onions to the tomato sauce, as well as some crushed San Marzano tomatoes. This creates a magnificent sauce, rich and sweet, with a diverse textural component.

bucatini alla matriciana

As for the type of pasta to use for the Matriciana, the connoisseurs only use spaghetti, although bucatini and rigatoni are tolerated. My father loves to use bucatini, the thick spaghetti with a hole running down the center, almost like a thin straw. He says their texture and body marries perfectly with the rich sauce. When you eat spaghetti you slurp them, with bucatini you make a whistling sound, due to the hole in the middle. It is a delight watching people eat Bucatini alla Matriciana.

When making this classic pasta dish, make sure to use only quality ingredients: the e.v.o. oil, the Pecorino, the tomatoes, pureed and crushed, the guanciale (cured meat product prepared from pork cheek or jowl), the pasta. And make sure to cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Pasta has to stay al dente to preserve its texture and flavor and has to be cooked in boiling salted water.

Bucatini alla Matriciana

If you’re craving something Italian and authentic, this Bucatini alla Matriciana is the dish for you. Its rich, robust flavor and wonderful texture are always a delight to the palate. The guanciale adds a beautiful component that marries well with the tomatoes, and the wine does a wonderful job in tenderizing the meat, also subduing its sometimes salty and pungent profile. The onion brings its natural sweetness to the table balancing the flavors of the sauce very well. The pecorino, along with a bit of peperoncino, gives that little bit of kick to spike the flavors even more.

From Rome with love, whether with spaghetti or bucatini, enjoy this timeless Italian sauce!

Song of the day: “Thunder” – Imagine Dragons.

Bucatini alla Matriciana

Bucatini alla Matriciana

  • Author: Nicoletta
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4-5 servings 1x
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: Italian


Bucatini alla ‘Matriciana’, a classic Roman pasta dish, that combines a flavorful tomato sauce made with guanciale, onions, wine, Pecorino Romano, and bucatini pasta, leaving you with an exquisite and rich rustic dish.  


  • 1/2 cup guanciale, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp white wine
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
  • 2 Tbsp e.v.o. oil
  • pinch peperoncino (chili pepper)
  • 1 1/2 cups strained (pureed) tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup crushed stewed tomatoes
  • salt to taste (we did not add any, since the guanciale is pretty salty)
  • 400 g bucatini
  • 100 g pecorino


  1. In a small saute pan, add the chopped guanciale and render at low medium heat. Add the white wine and let cook for about 10 minutes until tender. Strain the guanciale from the fat and set aside.
  2. In a big saute pan add the e.v.o. oil, the onion and peperoncino. Cook until onion is translucent, then add the pureed tomatoes, and the crushed tomatoes.
  3. Cook the tomato sauce on low medium heat for about 10 minutes, then add the guanciale.
  4. Keep cooking the sauce until thickened.
  5. While the sauce is cooking, bring a pot of salted water to boil.
  6. Add the bucatini (or spaghetti) and cook according to package instructions.
  7. Drain al dente and add to the sauce.
  8. Add half of the grated Pecorino and stir letting the pecorino blend the sauce and coat the strands of pasta.
  9. Serve immediately with more Pecorino on top.
  10. Enjoy!
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Bucatini alla Matriciana

If you like Matriciana sauce, the real deal, you might like the authentic Carbonara recipe:

Carbonara, a classic Roman Pasta


Making our recipes? Take a pic and tag us on Instagram: @sugarlovespices/#sugarlovespices. You’re going to be in our gallery!

Disclosure: All links in our post are NOT affiliate links. They are only about products or places we normally purchase and like.

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  • Avatar
    Reply The FoodOlic August 11, 2017 at 9:52 am

    Oh my! I totally understand the intolerable heat you guys got in Italy, I’m in Spain where it got pretty “infernal” also… Never experienced such a heatwave before… couldn’t cook anymore… without losing a litre of sweat in the meal… My husband and I are total Italian cuisine lovers! He’s going to flip on this! I love this added pork cheek, guanciale,element in there. I hope I’ll be able to find some in my Italian shop, yummy! Enjoy Italia guys!

    • sugarlovespices
      Reply sugarlovespices August 11, 2017 at 11:59 am

      So, also in Spain the heat is unbearable! This year is something I’ve never experienced, I felt quite sick a couple of times, and got a bit scared. This pasta dish is truly delicious, hope you try it and let us know. Thanks so much for commenting!

  • Avatar
    Reply Diane Galambos August 11, 2017 at 11:10 am

    Have been following your adventures on Instagram and the news talks about the Lucifer weather over there. Your ‘song of the day’ reference to dragons? is that about the weather or Game of Thrones? 😉

    Anyhow I must try this recipe and I’m with your dad – I love Bucatini even though it seems a bit harder to handle that spaghetti. Wishing you a continued safe journey!

    • sugarlovespices
      Reply sugarlovespices August 11, 2017 at 12:10 pm

      Thanks Diane! It has been “Infernal”, I thought I was used to the heat but I was so unprepared and I got quite sick! I love Imagine Dragons, and the song of the day was chosen for the title Thunder (we wish!) but the image of the dragon spitting fire is quite accurate 😉 . No, I’m not a fan of Game of Thrones, never watched it. For my dad, bucatini forever! 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply annie@ciaochowbambina August 11, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    This is all I will crave until I have it – or something close enough! I love the addition of onions; I’ve never made a tomato sauce without them. Sorry the temperatures are so uncomfortable! But so happy you are there! We hope to go next spring – temps should be a little more comfortable. Pinned!

    • sugarlovespices
      Reply sugarlovespices August 11, 2017 at 11:42 pm

      Thanks Annie! I like the addition of onions too in tomato sauces, and here it gives a nice sweetness. Nice that you’re planning on coming to Italy next spring! Yes, the temperatures might be a bit more comfortable 🙂 .

  • Avatar
    Reply diversivore August 11, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    This SPEAKS to me. I mean, I love pasta in general, but this is just… perfect! That marbled guanciale… the bucatini (one of my favourite pastas)… the hilarious and endless debate over onion. It’s a beautiful dish. I couldn’t agree with you more when it comes to the attention to ingredients. Italian food, for all its heated debate over which recipes are most authentic, is ALWAYS good when close attention is paid to the ingredients. It’s a lesson for any cook, anywhere! I’m glad to see you’re having so much culinary fun in Italy – can’t wait to see what other dishes and inspirations you send our way. Just… stay out of the hot cars. 😀

    • sugarlovespices
      Reply sugarlovespices August 11, 2017 at 11:56 pm

      Hey Sean, thanks! This is a pasta dish we often have when in Rome, my family loves it, and Loreto too. Bucatini are under appreciated 😉 . We’re having a culinary (and not only) blast! It cooled off a bit, it is breezy and beautiful.

  • Avatar
    Reply Shareba August 12, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    This looks so comforting and delicious! I’ve never heard of guanciale before, but it looks interesting!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta August 13, 2017 at 1:58 am

      Thank you Shareba! It is a comfort dish, as most of the pasta 🙂 . Guanciale is a type of bacon, Italian d.o.p., used to make some traditional Italian sauces, like this one. You could substitute it with a salt cured bacon, but it’s not the same.

  • Avatar
    Reply Dana Sandonato August 14, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    This looks and sounds ah-mazing. I just had bucatini for the first time last year and fell in love with how hearty and substantial of a noodle it is. I’ve never cooked with it, but I should!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta August 15, 2017 at 11:08 am

      Yes, substantial is the word 😉 ! Thanks, Dana, it is a great classic pasta dish that everybody loves here in Rome (and not only).

  • Avatar
    Reply kitchenfrau August 31, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Nicoletta, I just made your fantastic Matriciana tonight for dinner. Followed the recipe for the sauce exactly, and it was a winner! Absolutely memorable! Even though I served it with gluten free fettuccine, it was still so delicious, rich and complex – absolutely surprising with so few ingredients. It is a definite keeper and we’ll be having it again soon. It tasted like Italy.

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 1, 2017 at 7:09 am

      Hello Margaret, you cannot imagine how happy I am when somebody tries our recipes and leaves us a feed back saying they loved it! Especially if they are recipes from my country and my city, like this one, close to my heart. Glad you enjoyed it, it is so so flavorful!

  • Avatar
    Reply Diane Galambos September 20, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    Hi! What’s the difference between strained tomatoes and stewed tomatoes?

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta September 20, 2017 at 5:40 pm

      Hi Diane, thanks for your question! It’s a difference in texture. The strained tomatoes we call it passata and it’s basically a tomato puree that has been strained from any seeds and skin. It has a thicker, smoother texture. The stewed tomatoes are usually whole in the can in a lot of water and they contain the seeds. When you add them to the sauce you can crush them with your hands, since it is all about gaining a particular texture in this sauce, a mix of smooth puree and some chunks from the crushed stewed tomatoes. Hope that helps, but you can definitely use only the stewed tomatoes pureed in a blender 😊.

      • Avatar
        Reply Diane Galambos September 20, 2017 at 8:20 pm

        Perfect. I always have a can on San Marzano and am close to Italian store where I can buy passata. Making this soon 😍

  • Avatar
    Reply Jane Stuppi July 31, 2019 at 11:46 am

    Love this recipe, will make again & again.

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta July 31, 2019 at 11:51 am

      Glad you loved it! Such a classic, you can never go wrong. Thank you for the feedback!

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