Sandra’s Prawn and Pancetta Spaghetti

Another recipe taken from Sandra’s kitchen (La Cucina di sandra). Ben found it on her new blog, subtly emailed it to me and since then we’ve already made it 3 or 4 times. In the blog she shares travel adventures and recipes that would normally be kept for the pleasure of her guests in her Melbourne based cooking classes. Sandra calls the sauce ‘Spaghetti con gamberi e pepe nero stile Amatriciana’, click on link to view Sandra’s blog…


I did originally try making this with garganelli but quickly learned not to ‘mess’ with the Italian’s sauce and pasta pairings… Sandra put it,

‘When adopting a pasta recipe you should always watch the shape you use, it is a major contributor to the success of the dish. You know us Italians are just mad about the shapes we use, there is method in our madness!’

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There are a few straggler photos at the bottom of the page of the garganelli with this sauce so it gave me an excuse to tell the story of how the shape first came about.


True to Sandra’s style and Italian heritage, this is the kind of sauce that really enables the ingredients to shine, not complicated but respectful, coating rather than drowning the pasta as in true Italian fashion. 

I learnt a few good techniques from this recipe, one of which was to cut up the prawns (I would normally just use whole prawns) and the other was to blanche, skin and squeeze out excess liquid from the cherry tomatoes (I would normally only do this with larger tomatoes) but using cherry tomatoes resulted in a beautifully sweet, silky pulp. 

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The only slight alteration I made was to leave more prawns whole as mine are smaller than Sandra’s Australian prawns. As this dish is so quick to make once you start cooking, I’ve written the method in the order I make it (basically prepping the prawns and tomatoes before starting the cooking process).

Ingredients Serves 4

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 16 green tiger prawns (I used raw king prawns as this was the best I could get)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 finely chopped shallots
  • 60g smoked pancetta, cut into batons
  • 20ish ripe cherry tomatoes, the small Roma type
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp warm vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 300g spaghetti or spaghettini


Peel and clean the prawns. Leave 12 whole and chop the rest into small pieces.

Prepare your cherry tomatoes by pouring boiling water over them in a bowl and leaving for a minute or two before removing their skins (making a small incision with a sharp knife should help, if needed). Slice tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds.


Heat oil in a pan and and add shallot, saute until translucent.

Add pancetta and saute for a minute or two before adding chopped prawns until they change colour to a light pink.

Add prepped cherry tomatoes to the frying pan with the reserved whole prawns.

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Cook until the prawns change colour.

Add white wine and allow to evaporate.

Cook pasta according to packet instructions but remove just before it reaches al dente using a slotted spoon and dropping it into the sauce.


Add stock to pasta and sauce and mix everything together until pasta is well coated (this will take a few minutes) by which time the pasta will be cooked to perfection.

Add a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately! 


The garganelli images and one of many old wives tales (but my favourite) as to how it first came about…..

The Pope of Rome had a cook, who was busily preparing tortellini and had to think on her feet as the kitchen cat gobbled up the tastey meat filling whilst her back was turned. Either way, she fashioned little maccheroni-like rolls instead using a comb-like tool from the weaving room and pencil sized wooden twigs used to light the kitchen fire. 



7 Comments Add yours

  1. You’re the 2nd blog I’ve seen today with succulent shrimp. I’ve got to make some!

    1. katiebonken says:

      That’s funny, did you have your shrimp?

  2. shadymorels says:

    Nice, simple recipe, with beautiful photos as usual 🙂

  3. norelannie says:

    looks delicious..and nice shoot photos 🙂

  4. Top marks for this recipe. Tastes superb. Thanks for sharing.


    1. katiebonken says:

      Glad you enjoyed-love this particular recipe very much

  5. Hi Katie,
    I have finally made it to come and have a look at your blog, I am so bad!
    Love the post about Nancy’s dish tonight and I love what you have done here with my recipe. Thank you you are a darling and BTW the images look amazing as usual. Love Sandra

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