On August 25th, Pino and I were heading home to Assisi after yet another memorable vacation on the island of Ventotene. Although in the region of Latium – as is Amatrice, near the earthquake epicenter – on Ventotene we hadn’t felt the early morning earthquake tremors on August 24th (my birthday). The shake-up awoke most Assisani though, many taking to the streets: no one in Assisi will ever forget the earthquake of September 26, 1997.
I was reading newspaper earthquake updates to Pino as we drove home to Umbria through Latium. I had a flash:
“Pino, invece di un cena da compleanno domenica prossima, facciamo l’amatriciana per i terremotati di Amatrice e gli altri paesi vicini?” Pino liked the idea: we’d forego the planned family birthday gathering for next Sunday, cooking instead spaghetti all’amatriciana at our farmhouse as a benefit dinner. 25 Euro each (or more if one wishes to give more). Funds collected will go to those in the devastated areas.
We only have room for sixteen – the table will be full.
This project has taken over now.
First step: researching the vera (“true”, “real”) recipe for spaghetti all’amatriciana.
Next step: visiting neighbors, asking if they’d like to get involved. As I’d imagined, “SI!” was everyone’s immediate response.
Mauro, now running Ristorante Da Giovannino (after his papa’ Giovannino’s death two years ago), willingly offered the star ingredient, guanciale, i.e., pork cheek (called “la barbozza” in umbro dialect) – and the spaghetti, too: De Cecco, of course.
Then on to the home of farm friends, Chiarina and Marino. The vera ricetta requires lard, not olive oil – and they still conserve the lard when slaughtering their pig every winter. Chiarina offered me jars of her tomatoes, too, for the sauce.
Peppe wanted to give me more wine than we‘d ever need for the dinner. Peppa gave me her homemade vinegar for the salad we’ll make, too. Our feast will be abundant: eggplants, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes abundant in the garden now. And lamb from Abruzzo and meat from our goats in the freezer. But l’amatriciana will take center stage.
I’m ready: I made la vera ricetta per spaghetti all’amatriciana the other day for lunch. It passed the test of a severe judge, Pino.
The recipe follows below (and a bit of “amatriciana lore”), just in case you, too, might want to do a benefit dinner for family and friends. Why not?
Where to send the funds?
A few of options…
The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) has a fundraising effort here.
Also, here is the bank info for the Diocese of Rieti. Father Marco did so much for the Aquila earthquake, and will no doubt do the same through the Diocese for Amatrice and Accumoli and other towns hit by it.
Bank Transfer to: Caritas Diocesana di Rieti- Unicredit Banca di Roma – Agenzia: Rieti Battisti (00788)
IBAN Bank Transfer code: IT 43 P 02008 14606 000005208129
Swift BIC Transfer Code: UNCRITM1788
Description: Terremoto Amatrice – Accumoli
Un grazie di cuore anche da me e un cordiale saluto. P.Marco
(And mille grazie to GB Bernardini, Italian Notebook founder/editor for being the catalyst for this crowdfunding venture – my first! – for those affected by central Italy’s August 24th earthquake.)
Recipe: Spaghetti all’amatriciana
The amatriciana sauce was a staple of the shepherds in of Latium and Abruzzo, during the transumanza (seasonal migration with their flocks, seeking pastures). The dish quickly became a favored pasta dish throughout the regions of Lazio and Abruzzo, and above all, in Rome. In their knapsacks, the shepherds carried pepper, pecorino (sheep’s milk cheese), guanciale, and lard to season the pasta also in their packs. The combination created a hardy, substantial meal. Another ingredient was added in the late 18th c.: tomatoes. This dish was once called “la matriciana,” as the people of Amatrice once called themselves “matriciani.” A linguistic glitch resulted in “amatriciana.”
First writtten about in 1790, spaghetti all’amatriciana now has countless variations, though all agree on the key ingredient: guanciale.
Garlic and onion appear in some versions and olive oil is often used instead of lard; some chefs add a splash of white wine when simmering il guanciale.
Traditionally, the sauce was served on spaghetti but now – especially in Rome – i bucatini (literally, “little holed ones”), a thick spaghetti with a wider diameter and a hole through the centre, are very popular. But spaghetti only are used in the traditional recipe, born in Amatrice, mountain town in the province of Rieti (only 50 kilometers from L’Aquila in Abruzzo), as verified on the sign as you enter Amatrice, ”Amatrice, città degli spaghetti all’ amatriciana.”
Here’s la vera ricetta: Ingredients ( for 4 – 5 persons):
Spaghetti of top quality (if possible, De Cecco, n. 12) – 1 lb of pasta for every 5 persons
1 -1/2 lbs of very ripe tomatoes, casalino rosso variety – or San Marzano (probably more obtainable) – or 1 lb.16 oz-can of tomatoes
about 1 c of pecorino di Amatrice (and doubt you’ll get hold of Amatrice sheep’s milk cheese – but pecorino romano not suggested as too salty and will alter the flavor. (I used an Umbrian pecorino – tied in well!)
about 1/2- 3/4 lbs of guanciale – if unobtainable, use Italian bacon, pancetta
1 hot chili pepper
lard (Crisco won’t do it!) – about 2 T (but you may wish to use the alternative, i.e., olive oil – extra virgin ONLY
salt, q.b. (“quanto basta”, ie, “as much as you need”)
Cut guanciale into thin strips about 1 1/2 “ long (do not cut into cubes – as when sautéeing, bits will become hard). If using fresh tomatoes, drop into boiling water so that skins slide off. When cool, remove center with seeds. Chop. Set aside chopped tomato pieces and their juice.
Heat medium-sized stainless steel pan (though the “true” amatriciana was cooked in cast iron) and drop in enough lard to cover pan – about 2 T.
When fat is hot (but not smoking!), slide in guanciale strips and chili pepper, stirring gently with wooden spoon, cooking over low heat a few minutes until golden.
**Critical to the perfect amatriciana: do not heat too long, do not burn guanciale nor cook past “golden” point as the meat will be come tough.
When golden, slide in tomatoes (fresh or canned).
Cook gently for about 15 minutes until the sauce reaches the “right” consistency (takes practice!), i.e. not too liquidy but not too dry.
While sauce is simmering and almost ready, cook spaghetti in a generous amount of salted boiling water until al dente (“to the tooth”). Do not overcook. As soon as you drain the pasta, stir into the sauce, then sprinkle with just-grated aged pecorino cheese. Mix. Serve.
And this weekend was to have been Amatrice’s famous Sagra degli Spaghetti all’Amatriciana (50th edition). Here is some footage of the festa – and Amatrice pre-earthquake… may spaghetti all’amatriciana be feted here once again – in a resurrected Amatrice.
(Here is a note about the 2009 earthquake in nearby L’Aquila, only 50 km from Amatrice.)
(And here is a note about an Umbrian town destroyed in the recent earthquake.)