Amatriciana, or matriciana, is a pasta sauce that originates from the Lazio region, more precisely from a small town in the province of Rieti: Amatrice, a charming village populated by just under 2500 souls.
Pasta enriched with this sauce is one of the hundred best-loved Italian gastronomic specialities in Italy and around the world, both for its extreme simplicity of preparation and for its unique and intense flavour.
This traditional recipe is the white version of gricia, whose common denominators are pecorino cheese, the territory of origin and pork cheek.
The addition of tomatoes to amatriciana is first documented in a cookbook called 'L'Apicio Moderno', by the Roman chef Francesco Leonardo, which calls for the use of pecorino cheese, onion, guanciale di Amatrice and tomatoes.
These vegetables were introduced after the discovery of their many beneficial organoleptic properties, which encouraged their cultivation throughout the Kingdom of Naples, whose mild climate made it possible to harvest tasty, brightly coloured produce.
The new version was so successful that many local restaurateurs included it on their menus and were called Matriciani.
Moreover, the enterprising cook Leonardi presented this dish of popular origin at a banquet organised by Pope Pius VII in honour of the Austrian Emperor Francis I, at which it was widely appreciated by all diners.
The original Amatriciana recipe is now protected by a specific mark of origin, which requires the use of pecorino di Amatrice cheese from the Laga Mountains or the Sibillini Mountains plus San Marzano tomatoes.
Although there is no mention of garlic or onion, the flavour of this pasta can be enlivened by the addition of pepper and chilli pepper.
Lastly, the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions in Configno (a small hamlet in the municipality of Amatrice) has dedicated an entire section to this dish, housing ancient utensils, pots, original machinery and everything that was needed to make this dish.
This place withstood the earthquake in August 2016 and the US New York Times newspaper cited Amatriciana as an indisputable emblem of resilience, sparking the curiosity of thousands of people curious to taste it and visit the location.
400 gr of spaghetti
350 gr of San Marzano tomatoes
75 gr of grated pecorino cheese
100 gr of pork cheek
50 ml of dry white wine
extra virgin olive oil q.b.
chilli pepper to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water.
In the meantime, brown the guanciale cut into strips in a pan with the chilli pepper and the oil.
After a few minutes, add the white wine and let the alcohol evaporate.
Remove the guanciale from the pan and set it aside.
Place the diced tomatoes in the pan containing the fat released from the cheek, add salt and leave to cook for about ten minutes.
The tomatoes should take on the consistency of a thick sauce.
Once this is achieved, remove the chilli pepper, add the guanciale, stir well and cook for another ten minutes.
When the pasta is ready, drain it from the cooking water, add it to the sauce and stir.
Serve the pasta all'amatriciana sprinkled with plenty of grated pecorino cheese.
Enjoy your meal!