Fennel Amatriciana

Without a shadow of doubt, my absolute favourite Italian pasta dish ever to eat and to make. Rich in flavour from the red wine and tomatoes, salty from the pork and spicy from the fresh chillis, it’s a perfectly balanced dish that just leaves you wanting more. Well it does in my household anyway, which is why I’ve put that this recipe serves just 4 people. In actual fact it could probably serve 5 to 6! Who wants a dinner without seconds though? Not me!

Guanciale, cured pigs cheek, is the traditional meat used in amatriciana. You can get this in some specialist delis around the UK, but to make it easier for everyone I’ve gone for a combination of pork belly, salami and pancetta in my version which I feel works just as well. Another element I’ve changed in my amatriciana is the type of pasta used. This recipe uses penne pasta, however bucatini is the traditional pasta usually paired with the amatriciana sauce. You may be wondering why I’ve chosen to change the pasta for my recipe. Well it’s quite simple really. I HATE bucatini! It is quite possibly the most annoying, messy and difficult pasta shape to eat in the world. It doesn’t twirl around a fork, it causes you to splash sauce into your own face and just makes eating a frustrating experience. If you enjoy these factors while eating, please do go for bucatini. I’ll stick to the penne, thanks.

The main thing that differs in my recipe to a traditional amatriciana however, is my choice to use fennel seeds, and why not? Pork and fennel go together like fish and chips, like salt and pepper, like strawberries and cream, like – you get the drift. It just works okay!

Buon Appetito!

Fennel Amatriciana


(Serves 4)

Olive oil
500g of a mixture of pork belly, salami and pancetta, all diced
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 red chillis, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons fennel seeds
300ml red wine
1kg chopped tomatoes
500g fresh penne pasta
Salt and pepper
Pecorino and fresh bread for serving


  1. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium to high heat and fry all the meat until well browned and slightly crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and put to one side.
  2. In the same pan fry the onion until soft and then add in the chilli, garlic and fennel seeds and cook for a further minute or two.
  3. Pour in the red wine and bring to a boil. Reduce by a third and then pour the tomatoes into the pan along with the cooked meat. Pour 400ml of water into one of the chopped tomato tins, swirl it around a bit and then pour this into the saucepan too.
  4. Stir everything together well and then turn down to a very low simmer for around 2 and a half hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  5. The meat should be falling apart by this point. Once it is add a generous amount of fresh black pepper BUT taste before adding any salt. As the meats are salty the sauce may not need much, or any additonal salt at all. Add in your cooked pasta to the same pan and mix well making sure all pasta is coated with that amazingly rich sauce.
  6. Serve your amatriciana with grated pecorino on top and some fresh bread for mopping up any leftover sauce!


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