All’amatriciana comes from Amatrice in Lazio, Italy.
Sadly because of the devastating earthquake that destroyed much of the town of Amatrice in Central Italy last year, amatriciana has become a pasta dish that I cannot help but associate with that tragedy. However, I was very touched by how many restaurants here in Italy and abroad raised funds to help the town’s people by donating all or part of the takings from sales of plates of pasta all’amatriciana in the weeks following the earthquake.
Of course, Amatrice was already well known for its famous pasta recipe even before the earthquake. This dish is based on typical ingredients and on a particular method of preparation which traditionally includes the use of a cast iron frying pan or skillet to make the sauce.
Some Amatriciana history!
Amatriciana, also called matriciana in local dialect, was originally just a white condiment (no tomatoes!) called alla gricia. This was apparently the main meal of Amatrice shepherds, who carried pieces of pecorino in their packs, bags of black pepper, dried pasta, cured pork cheek and lard. Between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries tomatoes were imported to Italy and a tomato sauce was added to the shepherds’ recipe.
Amatrice became famous for creating this ‘new’ recipe and in fact the town has held an annual festival in celebration of amatriciana for the last 50 years. Last year’s festival was cancelled because of the earthquake which happened just a few days before the date of the festival. It was held instead in Rome in December. I’m not sure if the festival will be held this year, given the destruction and loss of life Amatrice suffered.
Although it is not of Lazio origin (During the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Amatrice belonged to Abruzzo), amatriciana has become a classic Roman recipe. However, it is more often served with bucatini in Rome and spaghetti in Amatrice. Both pastas work really well with it, although I prefer bucatini.
The people of Amatrice are very strict about the ingredients of this sauce and have been known to take offence when chefs become creative with their own versions. There’s a lovely story of when two Michelin star chef Carlo Cracco confessed that he put garlic in his amatriciana and the Amatrice town council accused him of ‘a lack of judgement’ on their Facebook page!!!
The recipe on the next page is based on the original except for the use of olive oil instead of lard. It’s a recipe that everybody loves, especially kids so well worth adding to your own pasta repertoire if it isn’t there already.