There are some great Italian restaurants in the Richmond area. When asked to pick favorites, most Richmonders say Mama Zu’s or Edo’s Squid—two classics and fantastic, to be sure. But my favorite has to be Maldini’s in Forest Hill. I may be a tad biased because I lived in that neighborhood previously, and frequently ate in or had it delivered. Just thinking about it now is making me hungry. One of the dishes that my husband frequently ordered was the Spaghetti all’Amatriciana. So when I saw a recipe for it on Saveur, I thought it might be a good weekend project. Well, my husband definitely liked it. It was a little too intense for me, but I am more of a white sauce person myself. It had a lot of flavor, definitely was not a subtle dish. But don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself!
12 oz. thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into ¼" strips
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig sage
2 tbsp. red wine
1 (28-oz). can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 lb. dried spaghetti
Finely grated Parmesan
Start by getting out your trusty Dutch oven. I swear, that is one kitchen piece that gets almost as much work as our chef’s pan. Cook the bacon over medium heat until it’s good and crispy, about 15 minutes or so. Scoop out the bacon (but leave the grease) and put it on some paper towels for later. Next you want to melt the butter with the bacon grease and then toss in the carrots and onion. Season with a little salt and cook about 6 minutes so the veggies are soft. Add half of the garlic, plus the rosemary and sage and cook about 2 minutes. You may want to tie your herbs together with kitchen string. We didn’t, and they were hard to scoop out later (which I think added to the intensity of the flavor). Next pour in your wine and deglaze the pan. Cook until the wine evaporates, about 5 minutes or so, and then add in the tomatoes. Bring this to a boil, and then turn the heat down to medium low. Now comes the part where you put down the spoon and walk away. Cook partially covered and cook about 2 hours until thickened, stirring every once in awhile.
Your next step is to take out the herbs and throw them away. Ours fell apart and there were rosemary leaves everywhere, so hopefully it holds together a little better for you. You’ll want to get as much of it out as possible. If you want a smooth sauce, you can blend it (much easier if you have an immersion blender!) but we didn’t. Seemed like an unnecessary step to me. The recipe also said to only use 3/4ths of the bacon to add back to the sauce, but we threw it all back in. I mean, it’s bacon. Add the rest of the garlic and oil, pepper and red pepper flakes and let it sit (still keeping it warm) while you get the noodles ready.
We made fresh pasta for this, so that’s why our noodles aren’t exactly spaghetti, if you’re paying attention at home. Once your pasta is ready, mix it into the sauce and toss to coat, then serve with a little Parmesan grated on top! It should be slightly spicy with a strong tomato flavor. It wasn’t my favorite, but my husband gobbled it down, so try it out and see what you think!