Cold snowy nights and long-delayed trains after a challenging work day may provide a sufficient excuse to forego food shopping and go directly home. As for dinner, however, this choice leaves one to rely solely on what’s on hand in the pantry and fridge.

Such was the case earlier this week when I prepared what I’ve chosen to call “pasta dal frigorifero.”   After looking through our fridge, I came up with a cup and half of Marcella Hazan’s tomato, onion, and butter sauce, a package of diced pancetta that was about to expire, and a close-to-empty tube of tomato paste. Our pantry serendipitously provided box of bucatini, along with staples like olive oil and crushed red-pepper flakes, for which I decided to prepare a sauce from what I had found in the fridge.

While purists may frown on my likening this dish to the classic Roman all’ Amatriciana, I have to say it at least made me think of it. 

Pasta dal Frigorifero

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 ounces diced pancetta

crushed red-pepper flakes to taste

freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon concentrated tomato paste

1.5 cups leftover tomato sauce (a plain sauce with good onion flavor like Hazan’s is perfect)

8 ounces bucatini or spaghetti

Pecorino Romano

In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the oil. Add the pancetta, red-pepper flakes, and black pepper. Cook over medium-low heat until the pancetta has rendered most of its fat. About 10 minutes.

Rendering the pancetta
Rendering the pancetta

Add the tomato paste and cook stirring for about 2 minutes, stirring to lightly toast the paste.

"Toasting" the tomato paste
“Toasting” the tomato paste

Add the leftover tomato sauce, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sauce comes to steady simmer.

Simmering the tomato sauce
Simmering the tomato sauce

Meanwhile cook the pasta in well salted water.  About a minute before the pasta reaches the al dente stage, transfer it with tongs to the skillet with the sauce. Still over low heat, toss the pasta in the sauce until it is nicely coated for about a minute more, letting the pasta reach al dente. If the sauce is too thick you can use a tablespoon or two of the pasta water to thin it.

Tossing the pasta with the sauce
Tossing the pasta with the sauce

Off the heat, sprinkle with grated Pecorino Romano.

Wine Pairing: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

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