Anne's Blog

Amatrice, Spaghetti all’Amatriciana..and Crowdfunding

Date: August 27, 2016 - categories: , , , - 14 Comments

The day following the Amatrice/Accumuli earthquake on August 24th (my birthday), Pino and I were enroute home to Assisi after yet another memorable vacation on the island of Ventotene. Although Ventotene, too, is in the region of Latium – as is Amatrice, near the earthquake epicenter – none of us had felt the early morning earthquake tremors.


That magical island of Ventotene

The shake-up awoke most assisani, though, many taking to the streets: no one here will ever forget the earthquake of September 26, 1997.
As we drove through Latium and back into Umbria, I was reading newspaper earthquake updates to Pino.


A flash came to me: “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: instead of a family birthday gathering, we’d cook up a spaghetti all’amatriciana dinner at our farmhouse for friends as a benefit dinner. 25 € 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. I’ve spent alot of time researching the recipe, seeking the vera (“true”, “real”) recipe for spaghetti all’amatriciana. And then I decided to find out if others in our area wanted to get involved. “Si!’ immediately from anyone I spoke to about possible participation. Mauro, now running Ristorante Da Giovannino (after his papa’ Giovannino’s death 2 years ago), was glad to offer a key ingredient la barbozza (Umbrian dialect for guanciale, i.e., pork cheek). Spaghetti, too: De Cecco, of course.


Mauro offered the guanciale (in Umbria, “barbozza”) for our amatriciana sauce


More Umbrian goodness at the small grocery of Ristorante Da Giovannino


Umbrian pecorino


De Cecco spaghetti for this dish


After Giovannino’s, I headed to the home of farm friends, Chiarina and Marino for they still conserve the lard when slaughtering their pig every winter. (The vera ricetta requires lard, not olive oil). Chiarina offered me jars of her tomatoes, too, for the sauce.


Chiarina wanted to offer me her lard for the amatriciana


Il lardo


She takes a whiff to be sure it’s not rancid (all fine!)


Chiarina wants to contribute some of her tomatoes, too


Tomatoes and lard from Chiarina – and Marino

Peppe wanted to give me more wine than we ‘d ever need for the dinner. Peppa’s vinegar will join our olive oil on the salad that night.


Peppe wants me to taste his wine


Peppe, so proud of his vino


…and Peppa is offering her own vinegar for our dinner

We’ll cook up other courses, too – to be decided. 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 all set: when home with all the ingredients, I made la vera spaghetti all’amatriciana for lunch. It passed the test of a severe judge. Pino.


The severe judge, Pino


I passed the test!

The recipe (with a tidbit of “amatriciana” lore) follows below – just in case you, too, might want to do a benefit dinner yourself for your friends and family? Why not?
(I think I just launched into crowdfunding..!)

Where to send the funds? Click here for suggestions.

Spaghetti all’Amatriciana

The amatriciana sauce was a staple of the abruzzese and laziale shepherds’ diet, during their transumanza (seasonal migration with their flocks, seeking pastures), later diffused throughout the regions of Lazio and Abruzzo, and in particular, in Rome. In their knapsacks, the shepherds carried pepper, pecorino (sheep’s milk cheese), guanciale (pork cheek), and lard to season the pasta they also carried. The combination created a hardy, substantial meal. Another ingredient was added in the late 18th c.: tomatoes.

First writtten about in 1790, spaghetti all’amatriciana now has numerous 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.

My research led me to the oldest version, the most authentic – with tomatoes, the only addition. Traditionally, the sauce was served on spaghetti but now – especially in Rome – i bucatini (literally, “little holed ones”), a variation on 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.”



Amatrice – pre-earthquake




This week-end was to be the 50th annual Sagra degli Spaghetti all’Amatriciana, food festival exalting this Amatrice culinary excellence. Luca Palombini would have been one of the top participating chefs cooking up the goodness. He was pulled out alive from the collapsed Hotel Roma, Amatrice, famed since 1897 for l’amatriciana, grazie a Dio.

Over the next few days, Amatrice’s devastated Hotel Roma must be pulled down. May it be rebuilt one day. You’ll want to head there for their spaghetti all’amatriciana.

In the meantime……

Spaghetti all’amatriciana
This dish was once called “la matriciana,” for the people of Amatrice, once called themselves “matriciani.” A linguistic glitch resulted in “amatriciana.”

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 – 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.


Ingredients for a true spaghetti all’amatriciana


Il guanciale


Ah, what tomatoes from Chiarina

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.


Note location on pig of guanciale (“pork cheek”)


Drop lard into heated pan

Simmer the guanciale in lard until golden





When golden, slide in tomatoes. Cook gently for about 15 minutes until the sauce reaches the “right” consistency (takes practice!), i.e. not too liquidy but not too dry.

Add the tomatoes to the guanciale and simmer.



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!

This pasta needs freshly-grated aged pecorino




Drain spaghetti, then add sauce


Sprinkle with pecorino, then serve

Read about – and see! – the Sagra degli Spaghetti all’Amatriciana (and Amatrice, pre-earthquake)
Read about – and see – August 24, 2016 earthquake destruction in Umbria
Read about the Abruzzo mountain shepherds (who also enjoy that amatriciana!)
Read about the 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila, only 50 km from Amatrice
Read about Pino’s restoration there – and also his “cultural restoration”
Read about the Assisi earthquake – and that in Emilia Romagna
Read about where we were on Aug 24th, day of the earthquake
Read more about Ristorante Da Giovannino
Read more about benefit dinners for Amatrice
Read about our spaghetti all’amatriciana dinner as a benefit for Amatrice, following the August, 2016 earthquake
Read about spaghetti all’amatriciana at a sagra (food festival) near Assisi


  • Rachel says:

    What a great idea, Anne! Lots of restaurants here in the US are making pasta all’Amatriciana and sending donations in. But I may see if I know enough people in our new home town to make this work here, too! And thank you for what looks to be the best recipe yet for an old standard!

    Love from Oregon!

  • Paul Huckett says:

    Like the USA, Australia has a huge number of people of Italian heritage . My own godparents came to Australia in the 1930s from the Friulil area. So there has been an enormous outpouring of grief and concern . We’ll try and recreate your recipe and technique this coming weekend and encourage our friends to pay for the meal by donating to the appeal . The earthquake has had a huge presence on our local news with our own ABC sending a news team for nightly updates.

  • Sara Mahan says:

    Wonderful idea Anne. I spoke with others about this sauce and doing an “Amatriciana across America” fundraiser. Now that I have the recipe, I may have to do it!

  • Catherine Williams says:

    Annie, your idea is wonderful. It is a good way for us in the U.S. to help, but also to feel a kinship in our grief and solidarity for this horrific tragedy in beautiful Umbria.

    As always, your posts are better than the best, in every way. Don’t know how you do it. All I can say is that I do go around telling people that I have a gifted friend who does all that you do. They never believe me, of course 🙂


  • Laurel Van Buren says:

    Dear Anne,
    Excellent Idea! I will propose it to some groups I belong to and keep expanding the circle!
    Thank you for your wonderful posts. I love that an unlimited number of people can get involved in this!

  • Judy Thomas says:

    As usual Anne, you never disappoint! This almost inconceivable tragedy has you bringing people together to share a meaningful meal as well as helping those affected. I know it will be wonderful – I wish I could be there helping.

  • Lucy Smith says:

    Annie, once again, your are your usual “get-er-done” self. What a great idea! I would love to come to your dinner, but the commute is rather far. I would still like to contribute. Do have a suggestion for me, and anyone else, who would like to help?

  • Bird Robichaud says:

    Brava, mia sorella!!

  • Mille grazie to each for your notes – and thanks for your help to Italy’s “new homeless” – and we met some of them last Sunday:

  • Mary Trainer says:

    This was a wonderful read!!! A great tribute to Amatrice!!!!

  • Debbie Mullins says:

    What a beautiful idea, Anne! I wish I could be there – but will be happy to “pass this on” to our friends here in Austin so that our community can contribute too!!

  • karen says:

    Brava, Annie, for getting all of us around the world sitting down around the Amitriciana table for a virtual feed, felt as though I could hear the guianciale sizzling and smell the scent rising from the stove. That was so cool that your wonderful neighbors contributed lard, vinegar, tomatoes and their love (and no doubt advice about how to make the this dish.) Just wish we all could have been there.

  • Cara says:

    Wonderful idea and it looks delicious!

  • Our spaghetti alla amatriciana dinner on Sunday, Sept 4th was wondrous – 19 persons – donation going to the rebuilding of the elementary school in Amatrice (group decision)-
    Will write a note on the dinner for blog asap

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