12” skillet or 6-8 quart pot
Box grater


In a skillet or pot, heat olive oil or lard over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just golden. To this, add onion and crushed red chili flakes. Stirring occasionally, cook until onions are translucent, about twelve minutes, adjusting the heat to avoid browning. Onions take time at a lower heat to develop flavor and avoid browning the exterior, working to caramelize the onion’s sugars from the inside out.


Add the garlic, stir and cook for one minute. Make space in the bottom of the pan and add the tomato paste, smearing it in the pan to take advantage of the surface area to get a little caramelization of the paste. Cook for two minutes.


Add wine and reduce by half. Add balsamic vinegar. Add tomatoes. You can dice them ahead of time, crush them with your hands as you add them, or, as I do, add them and, using a fork and butter knife, rough-dice them in the pot.


Add rosemary, salt and pepper to taste, reduce to a simmer, and cook uncovered for an hour. Taste as it evolves. It is one of the pleasures of making this sauce, and adjust with salt and balsamic vinegar as you like.


If using, add half the Pecorino Romano. Spoon over cooked pasta and garnish with remaining cheese.
  • 1 tablespoon lard or olive oil
  • Diced pancetta, bought at your charcuterie or make your own, 8 ounces (230 grams)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic
  • vinegar
  • 1 can whole peeled tomatoes 28 ounces (795 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pecorino Romano 3 ounces (85 grams), divided (optional)
  • One pound of dried pasta, cooked, will do the trick with this recipe.

Cook's Notes

I love a good sauce. At restaurants, I usually order extra sauce on the side. For some, food is an accessory to the condiment: you order fries for the ketchup, the wedge salad for the blue cheese dressing, the ribs for the barbecue sauce. I fall into this camp.

I could eat a bowl of good red pasta sauce on its own, spoon or no spoon.

This recipe is a spin on the Italian amatriciana sauce.

Traditional sugo all’amatriciana is made with guanciale, a cured pork jowl. If you’ve seen my kitchen, you know that I cure and roll pancetta and usually have about 10 pounds in the refrigerator or hanging over the sink by a string and a C-clamp. It is the belly and still has fat content and flavor.

Typically this Italian sauce does not have herbs. If it did, people would probably use basil. I use rosemary because that is what my mother did, and childhood flavors are always a strong pull. I also add a little balsamic vinegar, which gives an amazing amount of depth, and red chili flakes to give a comforting warmth. To keep with tradition, you can add a bit of Pecorino Romano or not.

You can use a large 12” skillet; however, I use a stockpot with high walls to avoid splattering all over my range.

Pour over a pasta of your choice. Bucatini is a classic, but spaghetti, ravioli, or malfatti would be welcome at your table. I make hand-cut egg noodles. You can also eat with a spoon; it’s that good, no shame.

I like to pair this with any of our red wines or for something fun, our 2021 Gentleman Farmer Napa Valley Rosé that just scored 90 points with Wine Enthusiast in their October issue.