We made this last week, adapting a recipe for “drunken pasta”, or pasta alla chiantigiana from the New York Times. We served it with guanciale, the cheek of the pig. Below serves two and a half portions – for when you want a little bit extra but don’t wish to be impolite.


  • 1 bottle dry red wine, and another one for drinking
  • 450 grams of spaghetti
  • 150 grams of guanciale, cut into 1-2 cm pieces
  • 1 red onion, cut into thin half-moons
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (or more if you quite like your garlic)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • a few tablespoons of olive oil
  • all of the Parmesan you have (at least 100 grams)
  • a handful of sweet tomatoes, halved
  • two pinches of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh basil


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add 1 cup wine and reduce the heat.

  2. Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the guanciale and let sizzle. When it’s brown and crispy, take it out carefully – keeping the oil in the pan – and place it in a bowl.

  3. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and stir it until it’s nice and softened — not burned nor crispy.

  4. Add the slices of garlic, red pepper flakes, and tomato paste and stir it until it’s evenly distributed. Add the bay leaf and the rest of the red wine. Bump up the heat and wait for the wine to reduce by half.

  5. Keep an eye on the sauce — when it starts to take shape, bring the pasta water to a boil, add the spaghetti, and wait for it to cook. Keep it al dente — it will cook in the sauce shortly.

  6. Reserve some of the pasta water and set it aside. Drain the spaghetti and then add it to the red wine mixture. Mix it up; let the spaghetti absorb the sauce. If needed, add some of the leftover pasta water.

  7. Stir in about half a cup of Parmesan and the butter and mix well. Mix in the tomatoes. Have a little taste.

  8. On serving, add the guanciale on top, sprinkle some remaining Parmesan, and garnish with some basil. Buon appetito.