Friends in Rome had warned me: No one should eat pasta all'amatriciana nonstop for a week. The sauce — a glutton's glorious punishment of pork, pecorino and tomatoes — produces one of the most satisfying dishes on the Roman table. But what's the best way to make it? I planned to eat my way all the way to the source waters, in the mountain village of Amatrice, about two hours north of Rome, to find out.

My amatriciana journey began, in a sense, several years earlier. On the evening of Aug. 23, 2016, I prepared bucatini all'amatriciana, for my son,

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