Pasta Amatriciana gets an everyone-friendly and delicious makeover in this vegan version. A brick-red tomato sauce is flavored with garlic, onions, fennel, red pepper and parsley, then tossed with penne pasta. It is as tasty as it is easy, and it makes a great weeknight dinner. Use gluten-free pasta for a gf version.
There are as many versions of an amatriciana sauce, a classic Roman pasta sauce, as there are cooks. Today, I have for you my very own version--one I arrived at after lots of research and testing. I guarantee you'll love it.
Some versions of amatriciana, I found, are vegetarian, and use no meat. Others rely on guanciale, a kind of pork, for flavor. Some use onions, others do not. Some add tons of chili peppers, others rely on sources of pungent heat, like garlic, to create the fiery flavor this dish demands.
I started out with a bit of inspiration from Ina Garten, although I did diverge quite a bit to end up with a recipe that's uniquely mine. The two main takeaways from Garten's recipe, for me, was the use of loads of garlic, which is mellowed first in oil and adds heat without fire, and fennel seeds. The fennel keeps this sauce from being a plain, albeit delicious, marinara, adding a certain depth and sweetness that's quite addictive.
This is an easy recipe, especially if you buy garlic that has already been peeled, as you'll otherwise need to peel two whole bulbs. The only other prep needed is to slice an onion.
Try it, then come back and let me know!
What we love about this pasta amatriciana
- It's easy. It takes 10 minutes prep time, max, and just over 30 minutes to cook the sauce.
- It's versatile. You can stir in some lentils or vegan meat crumbles into the sauce to add a protein boost, making it a one-dish meal.
- It's hot enough but not crazy hot, which means it's quite kid friendly, unless your kid or you cannot tolerate heat. In that case use less pepperoncino.
- It's gorgeous. I don't know what it is about red pasta sauces, but they make you so darn hungry just to look at them.
Helpful tips and steps
- Amatriciana is typically eaten with bucatini, which is a spaghetti-like pipe pasta which drinks up the delicious sauce. If you can't find it, use regular spaghetti or penne, like I did, which is great with this sauce.
- Cook the pasta until it is slightly less done than the al dente stage. This is because you'll cook it with the sauce for a minute or two and you don't want to overcook it.
- The pasta sauce is quite straightforward. Start it about 15 minutes before you begin the pot of pasta water so you can finish them up at the same time.
- Begin by sauteing two bulbs (or two heads) worth of garlic with olive oil in a large pot until golden, then pulse the garlic with San Marzano tomatoes or plum tomatoes.
- In the remaining oil, add 1 tbsp of fennel seeds. You can crush them or run a knife through them to break them up, which wil release their flavors. Saute a bit, then add the tomatoes and garlic to the pot and mix. Add sliced onions to the sauce. If you want to use a meat substitute or lentils, add them at this point. A vegan Italian sausage would be great--break it up into largish crumbles. Or use cooked brown lentils.
- Add red pepper flakes. This is a spicy pasta so I add a teaspoon which works great for me, but use less for less heat, and more for more heat. Add a cup of water.
- Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and let the sauce simmer 30 minutes. Stir in the cooked pasta with half a cup of the pasta cooking liquid. It might appear saucy at first but the pasta will soak up the juices and thicken quickly. Add more pasta water if you want a saucier pasta.
- Add salt and ground black pepper to taste. Stir in chopped parsley or basil. Sprinkle on vegan parmesan while serving.
More vegan pasta sauce recipes
- The Best Vegan White Pasta Sauce
- Vegan Alfredo Sauce with Mushrooms
- The Best Marinara Sauce Recipe
- Vegan Lentil Marinara
Vegan Pasta Amatriciana
- Large pot for boiling pasta
- Large saucepan
- 16 oz penne pasta (or bucatini or spaghetti. If gluten-free use gf pasta)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 bulbs (or heads) garlic (peeled and lightly crushed. The pods should still hold together, so don't make a paste of them)
- 28 oz plum tomatoes (canned)
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds (crushed them coarsely or run a knife through them to break them up)
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 medium onion (thinly sliced)
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley (or fresh basil, chopped)
- ¼ cup vegan parmesan
- Put a large pot of water to boil. Add salt and cook pasta to a level where it's slightly less than al dente.
- Start the sauce a few minutes before you begin to boil the pasta water. Place the garlic in a large pot with the olive oil and heat over medium-low heat. Toss the garlic in the oil until it colors and is a light golden brown but not burned. Fish the garlic out and place it in a food processor bowl.
- Add the San Marzano tomatoes with their juices to the food processor and pulse eight to 10 times until the tomatoes are crushed but not pureed and the garlic has mostly broken down into small bits.
- In the pot with the oil still in it, add the crushed or chopped fennel seeds, stir-fry them for a few seconds, then add the tomato paste and the red pepper flakes. Mix well and cook for a few minutes until the paste darkens.
- Add the onions to the pot along with the crushed garlic and tomatoes and mix well. Add a cup of water, mix well, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer about 30 minutes, stirring it occasionally.
- Season with salt and ground black pepper. Add the drained pasta to the sauce along with half a cup to a cup of the pasta cooking water. Mix well.
- Garnish with parsley and sprinkle on vegan parm before serving.
Love this pasta amatriciana? Check out more vegan pasta recipes on Holy Cow!