Italy Earthquake Aid? Spaghetti Can Help

August 29, 2016 / Food & Wine
Assisi, Umbria

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.

Peppe, proud of his wine

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.

Another option is to send funds directly to the Comune of Amatrice and/or the Comune of Accumoli, the two hardest hit by the earthquake.

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.


Buon appetito!


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.)


Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

59 Responses to “Italy Earthquake Aid? Spaghetti Can Help”

  1. Walter Coppenrath

    As always, Anne once again demonstrates she is your most talented

    As always, Anne has demonstrated once again why she is your best contributor and most insightful writer. Thank you from Montisi.

    • Phyllis Kulmatiski

      Our hearts go out to the people of Italy who are suffering from the earthquakes. My town in upstate NY , Schenectady, is having an Italian food festival on Thursday, offered by our local Italian restaurant, Perecca’s, and the proceeds will be sent to help the victims.

  2. Dominick Preziosi

    Well done Anne. Someday I look forward to visiting with you.

  3. Sandra Spector

    Grazie Annie, The videos and photos we get here in the news of the devastation are beyond comprehension. Hope the fundraising (and town raising… after razing) efforts are over the top.
    (Personally -Mi dispaice that I’ll never be able to try your recipe. Tu comprendi!!) Baci da S&J

  4. Linda Boccia

    We have had terrible drought and now immense fires all over California and the winery where I work is raising money for people in a nearby grape growing area who have lost everything in their fires. More than a 100 homes and many businesses have burned to the ground and like an earthquake it is devastating. Blessings to all who give money, eat pasta for charity or do whatever they can to help those who have both died and lost their homes and businesses. Thank you to everyone who practice compassion, for healing natural disasters worldwide.

  5. Onofrio Curatolo

    While I live in Canada, my Sons of Italy club Galileo Lodge” will have a picnic dinner alla amatriciana on Sept. 10 to help the earthquake victims. Your kind generosity will be greatly appreciated.

  6. David fleming

    What a beautiful gesture of support. Photos and descriptions beyond compare. Salute to Anne, Pino and people of Assisi

  7. carol weed lundin

    What a wonderful and inspiring post! All the more so with the locals donating ingredients for this benefit dinner of yours. Certainly the locals of Assisi know firsthand the tragedy of an earthquake and can totally empathize. People all over the world are cooking spaghetti all’amatriciana in the same manner as you, Anne!

  8. Rosemary Johnson

    What a great idea Anne! The kids at my school are collecting money for the flood victims in Louisiana, and I have told the older ones about the situation in Italy. One 8th grader is sure that the end of the world is near! I choose to be more optimistic!! Take care of yourself over there, and the spaghetti looks marvelous!

  9. Anne, what a wonderful idea. I wish I was there (I’m in Canada) to take part in your fundraiser. I lived in Tuscania, Lazio a number of years ago and my heart goes out to the wonderful, passionate giving Italian people. It is time to give back. I will make Spaghetti all’amatriciana and send a donation. Thank you for a beautiful article.

  10. Che meravigliosa, Annie! A wonderful, generous idea. Loved the story and the photos, and the step by step cooking process. Impressed you could pull it together so quickly.

  11. Lina Falcone

    Grazie mille Anne the devastation in Amatrice is huge, we are trying to do a fundraising here also. Thank you for making the pasta alla matriciana and supplying the recipe I will send it to family and friends.

  12. Suzanne and Jack

    Brava Annie. Grazie mille for organising a fundraising event. Here in Western Australia we have watched the destruction from the earthquake to both homes and lives. Thank you for the recipe for pasta alla matriciana. I will send it to my friends.

  13. Jenny Hannan

    Inspired and inspirational, Annie! Thanks for the links to charity as well. Most useful as prefer to donate directly to the areas affected rather than going through large http://www.s
    Love and big love! Jen

  14. Anne, What a wonderful idea for such a devastated area. Your pictures and recipe are beautiful. We look forward to helping the people of Amatrice

  15. Bev Oliveri

    Ann, you and Pino are doing a wonderful event to help your fellow Umbrians. We will continue to pray for the victims and their families. God bless your efforts.

  16. Andrea Ridilla

    I am sorry I did not get to meet Pino. It seems as though you really found love and that together you do beautiful things for people. What a wonderful gesture to give of yourselves to help others.

  17. tina chadda

    Dear Anne,
    thank you for a beautiful, heartfelt thoughtful blog. Best Wishes to everyone coping with the recent earthquake.
    Tina Chadda., MD

  18. tina chadda

    Dear Anne,
    thanks for a beautiful, heartfelt thoughtful blog on a difficult situation. Best wishes to everyone coping with the recent earthquake.
    Tina Chadda, MD

  19. Florene Carnicelli Johns

    Brava Anne! You and Pino have done it again. Your compassion is again demonstrated. I will be with you in spirit for your benefit dinner. So happy that you have been in touch with our loving cousin, Padre Marco, in L’Aquila. Will be sending a donation to the account he recommended. Also, your tireless efforts in checking on the safety of relatives and friends of our cousins in Casteluccio is greatly appreciated.

  20. Judy Pusateri

    Anne, this is a wonderful event you are planning…wish I could be there. I hope to have a dinner here when I return from vacation. I will be in Italy next week and will order this dish wherever they serve it and donate funds to the rebuilding.

  21. Brava Annie The perfect community response to other communities in need.
    I’m looking forward to a benefit dinner in SF.
    The recipe sounds delish, and almost do-able here.
    Sorry to hear about Giovanino, but so glad the tradition lives on. cheers

  22. Allen Furia M D

    I have always loved the stories of Italy from Anne and wiuld like to help the victims of this disaster anyway I can. I have been in a milder earthquake back in the early 70’s in Salsomaggiore, Pr. Parma, and that was scary enough. my sympathies go out to the loved ones who were injured or lost their families. An event as you planned at least is a great way to help the people involved. Allen

  23. Pamela Butler

    Happy belated birthday.
    I love your idea as a way to contribute to the earthquake recovery. Great step by step photos of the preparation of the recipe. I loved seeing photos of the friends you introduced me to on our day spent together with the farmers.
    I am looking forward to trying this recipe.

  24. Mary Cappiello

    Thank you so much for getting all these pictures and information to us. Having lived through the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco, and seeing the devastation in these hill towns, was a stark reminder for me. We will definitely donate and hope to help just a little bit to get things back to normal as soon as possible for these lovely and displaced Italian people in the tents. Your dinner sounds like the perfect idea. Wish we could be there to participate and help!

  25. Brian Swanecamp

    What a fantastic idea to help those in need after the earthquake. Your article was so inspiring and such a simple act of kindness and generosity. I only wish I could be there with you, your friends and family – especially since I consider you the best book on the planet. I so enjoyed all the photos. Not only of the food but all the people I have met over the 40 years I have been coming to Assisi (Mauro and especially my favorite – Peppa)! Lots of love to you, Pino and all my Alagna cousins. You are making a difference!! Love, Cousin Brian

  26. thanks Anne for your leadership and for your humanity. You inspire us all with your fundraising for the victims of the earthquake.

  27. Lynn Cowhig

    Thank you Anne, thru your “eyes” we see both the tragedy and the hard work done, with love, to help all those suffering. Will contribute and at the same time treat my family to a lovely feast…gained 5 lbs already!

    • Anne Robichaud

      Thanks to all and to Rebecca for her note and did mention Red Cross as destinee for donations as their overhead so very high….our benefit dinner tomorrow….and our funds MIGHT go to the Amatrice hospital directly have contact there through a Perugia dr. friend coming tonight….tomorrow..thoughts of you all as we raised our glasses in “Salute” to each of you, to all the “new homeless”

  28. Anne, this is a wonderful way to contribute your talents and heart! I’ll send a contribution to the Italian American Relief organization. Perhaps we’ll meet next year! Doris

  29. Matt Cappiello


    What a great idea and, as usual, what a great article. Something very real and also something informative. One thing though, every time I see a picture of Pino I think how good it would be to sit down with him with a bottle of wine, A loaf of sour dough, and a plate of pasta….and some time. Next time we’re there.

  30. Bravissima, Anne! Truly admirable efforts in a tragic moment for Italy. I look forward to making the true amatriciana thanks to your detailed recipe. Thank you for your always-excellent articles and insight into Italian life and culture.

  31. Debbie Wood-Mullins

    Anne – What a beautiful idea! And a wonderful way to involve your community in helping your neighbors in their recovery efforts. I wish we were there to contribute in person – but will “pass this on” to your friends here in Austin!

  32. Anne Robichaud

    Correction: did NOT mention the Red Cross due to their high operating expenses but know many choosing that source…and what is important now: doing something!

  33. Celia Sartor

    Annie , your article radiated all the devastation of the earthquake but also the resilience of the people. Not surprising that you and Pino would contribute your talents and time to raise money for the towns and their people. Bravo!

  34. Jane Lovell

    Thank you, Anne, for your eyewitness reporting and for your suggestions of how the rest of the world can help. Thank you also for the all’amatriciana recipe. I made (sadly) modified version last night as I was waiting to see if Hurricane Lester would hit Maui. It now appears that we will be spared major wind damage. Some day, if I can find more authentic ingredients, I will try to make the recipe properly. Finally, thank you for assuring me that the hospitable people of Scheggino are ok. Fondest aloha from Wailuku, Maui, USA

  35. Frank A. Campione

    Great job in reporting events from the places you and Pino visited. You are to be applauded for undertaking the spaghetti fundraiser. Which we were able to be there with everyone. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have died and were injured. Plan to speak with my friend Buddy Fortunato, publisher of the Italian Tribune newspaper to see what more we can do along with the Italian students of Nottingham high school in Hamilton, NJ.

  36. elissa ruffino

    Anne, You always do great work. Loved the piece and how to help! Sempre Avanti!!! BRAVO!!

  37. Susan Waltermire

    Anne-What a thoughtful and creative idea! I am sure having lived through one in Assisi you know the hardships they are enduring. Good luck with the dinner ( unless you already have had it) Heading to Northampton for our dads service and dinner with Alonda. I will share this with my sisters.

  38. Barbara Collie

    Annie You continue to do amazing thing and the world is a better place because of you !!!!

  39. Anne Robichaud

    Thanks to all and writing soon on my blog about our benefit dinner last night – we raised together 800 E approx and all of us decided to send it to the fund for the rebuilding of the Amatrice elementary school…..a memorable night

  40. Marianna Raccuglia

    Thank you for this informative article. You and Pino rose to the challenge for aid to these hurting towns. Having met some of these warm and caring farmers on your tour, it was no wonder that they gave so willingly. You are all so genuinely kind!

  41. Nancy Bean

    Dearest Anne,
    So wonderful hearing from you and knowing that you and your family are well. We continue to pray for all affected by this devastating, tragic event and hope to visit you in Assisi again. You truly are one of a kind! Looking forward to additional updates.

  42. Thank you for all you do to genuinely support the people in need, Annie and Pino! And, thank you for this amazing recipe…we will make every effort to make and share! We love your support of the elementary school!

  43. Anne,
    Thanks for the updates, we are so far away so it helps to get a first hand report. As you may know we have some Italian friends nearby, like you they had a lotta shakin, but fortunately are safe. We will check out the charities and hope these folks affected can find some peace.
    Tucker & Chris

  44. Anne and community – congratulations for supporting your neighbours with love at this traumatic time. I look forward to catching up with you this weekend in Assisi and learning how we in Australia can also help with love. You are an inspiration to many – never see a need without doing something about it (Saint Mary MacKillop)

  45. Sarah Walters

    Wonderful way to provide charity and comraderie! The pasta looks delicious! Only you, Annie, can rise to the occasion with grace and gourmet gusto!

  46. Valerie R.

    Anne, you are such a wonderful, caring person so reading this article is not a surprise that you are willing to help those that were affected by this horrible tragedy. And seeing all of your wonderful friends, whom I was VERY lucky to meet, that are more than willing to help with your wonderful idea of an Amatriciana dinner fundraiser is not surprising either. You know that if I were there I would have done anything I could to help. I’m so glad to hear that the dinner was a success and that you raised a nice amount. Keep up the awesome work, you and Pino and gems. xoxo

  47. Great article, Anne. Both moving and inspiring. Finally made a contribution through Italian American Foundation fundraiser. Now on to Spaghetti all’Amatriciana. De Cecco spaghetti, check. Lard, check. Marzano tomatoes, check. Working on pig’s cheek!


  48. Shelley Peck

    I love the idea of inviting friends, increasing awareness of what we each can do, and offering empathy when that seems so scarce in the world right now.

  49. Stephanie

    I was away from civilization when this quake struck so didn’t hear of it until several days later. I was touched by several things, first at the resilence of the people. Tho’ they have lost all of their earthly possessions, they support one another and carry on. I was warmed by the smiles I saw in your pictures, even in the midst of loss. Next thing was your immediate, unselfish and creative idea on how to help, so very practical! And last but not least the generosity and love of your local friends & neighbors. Thank you for sharing an inspiring act of kindness, it helps to balance all the negativity that is happening around the world.


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