This version of a classic Italian pasta dish is prepared with prosciutto, as was often done in Italian-American restaurants. For a more traditional version, substitute six ounces of guanciale (cured pork-cheek bacon) or regular bacon cut into 1/4 inch strips for the prosciutto. Cook the guanciale or bacon in the skillet with the olive oil before adding the onions. Cook until lightly browned, but still soft, about 4 minutes for the guanciale or 2 minutes for the bacon. Then add the onions and continue with the recipe as below.
- One 35-ounce can whole Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
- 1 pound perciatelli
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, cut into ½ -inch slices (about 1 ½ cups)
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 ounces prosciutto, sliced 1/8-inch thick and cut crosswise into ½ inch strips
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 cup grated mild pecorino Romano cheese
Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.
Drain the tomatoes and reserve the juice. Cut the tomatoes in quarters lengthwise and scrap out the seeds and cores. Stir the perciatelli into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, about 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and bay leaves and cook until the onions are wilted but still crunchy, about 4 minutes. Add the prosciutto and stir 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, about 1 cup of the reserved liquid and the crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer and cook until the pasta is done.
Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add half the sauce and stir until the sauce is bubbling and the pasta is coated. If necessary, add as much of the reserved pasta cooking liquid as needed to make enough sauce to lightly but evenly coat the pasta. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the grated cheese.
Transfer the pasta to a heated platter or serving bowls and top with the remaining sauce.