AMATRICIANA PASTA: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Food is so deeply ingrained into the Italian culture with a vast array of wonderful dishes, that often poetry has been written about them.
Amatriciana has it own verse from a Carlo Beccari's poem “… e li tra gli armenti, da magica mano, nascesti gioiosa nel modo più strano, la pecora mite e il bravo maiale, donarono insieme formaggio e guanciale.” which translates to “and there among the herds, by magic hand, you were born joyful in the strangest way, the mild sheep and the good pig, they gave together cheese and guanciale.”
Amatriciana, or 'matriciana in Roman dialect, (pronounced amətrɪʃiˈɑːnə) is a pasta sauce that took its name from Amatrice, a town in the province of Rieti which is found in the Lazio region near the city of Rome.
The main ingredients are guanciale, pecorino cheese and tomatoes, however this wasn't originally the case. The traditional dish of the amatriciana is Griscia or (gricia) which is similar but without the tomato as it was imported first into Europe at the end of the eighteenth century. The recipe was invented by the ancient shepherds, who went to pastures with lard, dry pasta, guanciale, black pepper and pecorino.
In the nineteenth century and up to the beginning of the twentieth century, the popularity of the Amatriciana in Rome increased considerably due to the close relationship between Rome and Amatrice. At that time, many of the town's innkeepers and tractors were originally from Amatrice, so the term “Matriciano” came to mean “Inn with kitchen”.
The Amatriciana was extremely well received in Rome and in the Latium region, becoming iconic of Roman cuisine.
Soon Amatriciana became famous throughout Italy and with the increase of the popularity of the dish, it also increased the variations, and the never-ending debate between which one is the best!
The best version is the one that you like, regardless of where it started! It is important to acknowledge the tradition and culture, to keep them alive for centuries but the food is all about experimenting, and we encourage you to find your own favourite version! After all, if 250 years ago it wasn't for someone who decided to add an exotic fruit called tomato in Griscia pasta, we wouldn't have Amatriciana today.
Here are some of the commonly debated questions. We hope that you get to experiment with them all until you find your own perfect recipe.
PANCETTA OR GUANCIALE?
Guanciale is the traditional cured meat used in this dish, however, many Italians prefer to use pancetta instead, which is more affordable and easily available.
As pancetta is slightly less fatty than guanciale it often needs a little bit of oil. The acidity of olive oil can interfere with the taste of guanciale or pancetta, which is why it is recommended to use lard instead.
Even bacon can be used, but be aware this will change the taste of the dish as bacon has a strong smoked flavour compared to guanciale and pancetta that are aged naturally.
SOFFRITTO WITH ONION OR NOT?
Another variant is to make a soffritto with onion and pancetta to add more flavour to the sauce.
We don’t recommend using garlic for this sauce as it has a strong taste which would overshadow all the other ingredients.
WHICH KIND OF PASTA?
Historically spaghetti was used but now the traditional Amatriciana in Rome is made with bucatini, which is a hollow spaghetti.
Amatriciana sauce has a great texture, and isn’t too thick nor too liquid, so every kind of pasta shape will work with it.