Cork Daddy and I used to go to Bar Italia in Leichhardt every Friday night during rugby season. Back in the day when we were footloose and fancy free. When our only worry in the world was being invited to two 21st’s on the same Saturday night. Being creatures of habit, without fail we’d order a fettucine Amatriciana and penne Boscaiola to share.
Until I discovered spaghetti olio e oglio (spaghetti with olive oil and garlic) on a trip to Europe for a family friends’ wedding. (Toby and Ellie – yours is still the funnest wedding we’ve been to). After that, I’d order spaghetti in an olive oil based sauce, loading it up with as many chilli flakes as the bowl would physically hold. Yum.
Of course it’d be rude not to order their garlic bread and we’d always finish the meal off with a trip to the gelato counter. Every week I would think I’d worked up the courage to choose a different flavour. Today might be the day I’d branch out and order something other than the lemon sorbet for me, a scoop of chocolate for Corks. But that day never did come. You know what they say, if it ain’t broke..
I loved every single thing about the place. Everything from the bustling atmosphere, noisy with constant chatter and the banging of pots and pans. I used to dawdle when going to the toilet, walking past the kitchen slowly, peering in to get a glimpse of the chefs hard at work. I loved seeing all of those stainless steel fry pans on the burners filled with all of the different pasta sauces. Carbonara, bolognese, puttanesca. There was a choice between spaghetti, ravioli, linguine or gnocchi. The smell of garlic wafting through the air. I was mesmerised.
And the simplicity of the pasta sauces were what did it for me. The pasta was always cooked perfectly al dente; not a strand of soggy pasta in sight. It was good, honest food.
So it was our love of Bar Italia combined with wanting to break in our new pasta machine that inspired me to recreate their Amatriciana sauce from memory. Using Jamie’s ‘Hero tomato sauce’ from the ‘Basics’ chapter in ‘Jamie cooks Italy’ as a base for the sauce, I cannot tell you how good it is. Loaded with bacon, garlic, chilli and basil and topped with lashings of Parmigiano Reggiano, it’s comfort food at it’s best.
Teamed up with a giant bowl of either fresh or dried pasta, you couldn’t get a more satisfying meal. If you want to have a go at making your own pasta, then see my blog post here, or otherwise, buy some good quality stuff from the supermarket, invite some friends over and open a bottle of something to share.
You’ll be hard pressed to find anything better.
And now that rugby season is over, we must visit Norton Street. Take a trip down memory lane and get back to Bar Italia. I know spaghetti bolognese will be our girls’ choice of pasta.
I just wonder what flavour gelato they’ll pick?
amatriciana pasta sauce (makes enough for 6-8 servings of pasta)
Be sure to read Lo’s tips below
A good splash of olive oil
5 x cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
4 x 400 gram tins of whole or diced tomatoes
2 x dried chillies, sliced lengthways
1 x heaped teaspoon of brown sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 a bunch of fresh basil, plus extra for serving
4 x rashers of bacon, finely chopped
Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated, for serving
Cooked pasta, for serving (you can use dried or fresh pasta, or make your own)
- Add the olive oil to a large fry pan and sauté the garlic until softened.
- Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper, basil and a splash of water and stir with a wooden spoon. (Roughly break the tomatoes up with your wooden spoon if using whole tomatoes).
- Simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring every now and then.
- In a seperate fry pan, fry off the bacon until nicely crispy and then add it to your tomato sauce. Stir and let it cook for another 5-10 minutes.
- Make sure that you discard the fresh chillies before serving.
- Stir the sauce through the cooked pasta and serve with a generous amount of grated cheese. Garnish with fresh basil.
- This sauce needs a good amount of salt. Just taste as you go.
- For a dinner party, serve the pasta with some garlic bread and a mixed green salad loaded up with olives, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and Spanish onion. Make sure you have plenty of sparkling water on the table and ensure that your wine store is well stocked.
- You can substitute the dried chillies with fresh chillies instead or you can use dried chilli flakes if that’s what you have.
- You can substitute the bacon with prosciutto for a real depth of flavour also.
- When you’re combining the cooked pasta with the sauce, add a dash of the cooked pasta water to loosen the sauce up a bit.
- We favour fettucine or penne for this sauce.
If you make this pasta, please leave your comments below. xx