A Tribute to the Town of Amatrice and the Victims of the Central Italy Earthquake
Last month I returned from a much-needed trip to Italy. It was a wonderful opportunity to make memories with friends new and old, visit relatives, reconnect with my roots and find some inspiration for some new recipes to test out on the blog. It’s so important for me to have that connection with my home away from home, to be familiar with the land of my ancestors and to be well acquainted with the traditions of my family; so I can’t imagine what it is like for the people of Amatrice who have lost their loved ones and their homes after the devastating earthquake that tore through their historic town on August 24.
I was in Sicily when I heard the news and had only been in central Italy two weeks earlier, so it was absolutely gut wrenching and heartbreaking to hear Mayor Sergio Pirozzi of Amatrice declare to reporters that “Amatrice is not here anymore, half of the town no longer exists”. As the day progressed the death toll rose and as of September, it has been confirmed that the earthquake claimed 298 lives.
It was surreal being in my hometown and hearing the news. Imagining what it would be like to have your loved ones and a lifetime worth of memories instantly torn away from you by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake is hard to comprehend. However, what was also surreal and moving was seeing a country that can normally be quite divided come together to show their support for their fellow countrymen. Restaurants in Italy and Italian restaurateurs around the world participated in the “Amatriciana for Amatrice” initiative, where Italian eateries served up the town’s infamous “Pasta all’Amatricana” to raise funds for earthquake victims. Even since coming home to Perth, I’ve seen a number of local Italian restaurants like La Sosta, Perugino and Parlapa take part in this fundraising initiative, which reinforces that the connection between countrymen (Paesani) extends far beyond borders.
Amatriciana is one of Italy’s most loved pasta sauces and has been enjoyed by locals since well before the 17th century. Amatriciana sauce is traditionally paired with Bucatini but today is often served with spaghetti and even rigatoni. The sauce itself consists of tomato, Guanciale (cured pork jowl) and a hint of chili and Pecorino cheese. For this recipe, I’ve chosen Bucatini, which is one of my favourite pasta shapes and I’ve used my homemade Pancetta as a substitute for Guanciale.
For some time onwards Amatrice will most likely be remembered for the tragic earthquake just like Aquila and Messina before it, however in time hopefully people will remember the culture, the people and the traditions from Amatrice that have left an imprint throughout Italy and all around the world. By sharing their stories, whether that is by recreating a plate of pasta, is a way to reassure the people of Amatrice that their contribution, their culture, the memories of their town and the stories of their people will continue to live on. That is the beauty of cooking.
2 teaspoons of Salt
400g Barilla Bucatini Pasta
200g Guanciale or Pancetta
400g tomato passata (pureed tomatoes)
1 dried or fresh red hot chili, finely sliced
50 grams of grated Pecorino Cheese or Parmigiano Reggiano
- Boil a large pot of water, once it starts boiling add 2 teaspoons of salt
- Cut off the tough layer of rind on the Guanciale and thinly slice the rest
- Heat a large pan over medium heat and fry the Guanciale until it becomes golden brown. Add the tomatoes and chili and cook on low heat until it simmers. Let it cook for 10 minutes and make sure to stir occasionally. Before removing from the heat, add the cheese and stir through, until the sauce is cream. Put aside until the pasta is ready.
- Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta but save one cup of cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the pan with the Amatriciana sauce and add a splash of the cooking liquid to help loosen the sauce. Toss the pasta through the sauce until it is well coated, then serve immediately and add more grated cheese if desired.