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Amatrice

August 25, 2016

Sometimes global disasters can seem very far away. Heck, sometimes domestic catastrophes feel very removed from our lives. It’s almost impossible to understand the unreality of finding your entire town devastated by a flood. And I can’t even imagine what it must be like to find your neighborhood flattened in an earthquake.

I was lucky in California to only live through a series of small quakes that did only negligible damage at most. But in Miami, I got to experience Hurricane Andrew and saw what looked like bombed out buildings that were left in the aftermath.

Nature’s fury is jaw-dropping in its intensity.

Amatrice is reported to be one of the hardest hit towns from the recent earthquake in Italy. Amazingly, a 13th century bell tower is still standing. But the town is in ruins. People are trapped under the rubble. And it has been hard to get support to people in need because roads have been cut off.

How does this have anything to do with food? Well, it’s Italian. So it has everything to do with food. Especially because Amatrice is the home to a famous sauce. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Although if you haven’t, you’re going to learn something new today.

Bucatini all’Amatriciana is one of the recipes in Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Mario Batali has a recipe for it. I’m sure everyone has a slightly different take on the right way to make the dish. Really the sauce is deceptively simple. Tomatoes with pork, onions, and chili peppers. Marcella calls for pancetta. Mario uses guanciale. And I have every reason to believe he is correct. When Marcella was writing, the world was a different place, and guanciale was almost impossible to find.

Here’s what Marcella had to say on the place that spawned this dish, on page 157 of her book:

The Roman town of Amatrice, with which this sauce is identified, offers a public feast in August whose principal attraction is undoubtedly the celebrated bucatini—thick, hollow spaghetti—all’Amatriciana. No visitor should pass up, however, the pear-shaped salamis called mortadelle, the pecorino—ewe’s milk cheese—or the ricotta, also made from ewe’s milk. They are among the best products of their kind in Italy.

To make the current situation worse, there were actually tourists in Amatrice for the feast when the earthquake struck. It’s really tragic.

While I don’t know this for an actual fact, I’d bet Eric at The Cheese Traveler has goods from Amatrice in his shop. If not, I’m sure he could talk to you all about them. Buying Italian goods would certainly be a great way to help out from far away.

Part of me wants to make a batch of bucatini all’Amatriciana in solidarity with those living through the aftermath of the quake. While most of the town was destroyed, this would help to show that the town lives on. And it does live on, in kitchens around the world.

Although the onions might be a dealbreaker when it comes to serving this to the Fussy family.

If you were interested in helping in more concrete ways, there’s a lot of need for help on the ground. But if you aren’t in Italy, the Italian Red Cross is raising money. If donating is your thing, here’s a link to the site.

And if it’s not, maybe you can just hold a thought of hope for those who will be soon rebuilding their lives in central Italy. It’s going to take a long time before the town is back on its feet. But it will recover. And I’m sure the legend of its great sauce will live on.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 25, 2016 3:41 pm

    In Italy many restaurants have pledged to give 2 euros for earthquake relief when a diner orders pasta all’amatriciana. The idea is spreading to other countries as well. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/25/italy-earthquake-restaurants-give-2-euros-each-serving-famous-pasta?CMP=twt_gu
    I doubt there’s a lot of restaurants serving amartriciana around here but this would be a great opportunity for someone to start, or simply to make a similar donation for another pasta dish.

  2. August 26, 2016 2:33 pm

    And now Forno and Chianti restaurants in Saratoga are doing just as I described: donating $4 for each plate of amatriciana ordered: http://www.dzrestaurants.com/giving-back/amatrice

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