Spaghetti all’Amatriciana: a tribute to food traditions


For those who have visited Italy and travelled a little bit off the beaten track, into the regional towns and villages, you would appreciate how beautiful and special these communities are. One such village, Amatrice, fell victim to the recent devastating earthquake on the 24 August 2016 causing destruction in the region of Rieti, about 105km from Rome. A picturesque town nestled in the valleys of the Appenines, Amatrice was home to some 2500 residents, 100 churches and the famous spaghetti all’Amatriciana. In fact, the community was just a few days short of celebrating the 50th anniversary of their Amatriciana festival (sagra all’Amatriciana). This was to be a weekend of celebrations in the town square with a vibrant atmosphere combining lively music and overflowing pots of pasta to share. This milestone celebration was not to be. The devastating earthquake striking this region claimed at least 290 lives and rescue efforts are continuing as this article is being written. Images of the pain and heartbreak of the community is truly moving and upsetting. People have lost family, friends, been injured themselves and have no place to call home. Churches and community buildings that have been standing for hundreds, if not thousands of years, are now flattened. Disbelief will soon be replaced by ongoing grief and even anger as reconstruction attempts commence. But our aim here is to honour one of the devastated towns by featuring their world-famous dish, spaghetti all’Amatriciana.


Spaghetti all’Amatriciana was traditionally a poor-man’s dish combining a few simple ingredients including locally produced pecorino cheese, dry white wine, local guanciale (cured pork jowl or cheek), pasta and chili, it was originally known as “Gricia”. In the 1800s, Christopher Colombo introduced tomatoes to the dish and the name “Amatriciana” was adopted. A similar dish is served in Rome and is known as Matriciana. This version includes onion, tomato sauce and pancetta to the mix. The community of Amatrice firmly believes that the correct dish that is worthy of the Amatriciana name consists of the following ingredients:

  1. Spaghetti
  2. Guanciale from Amatrice
  3. Pecorino from Amatrice (this is a strong tasting hard sheep’s-milk cheese)
  4. San Marzano Tomatoes – typically from the region of Mount Versuvio
  5. Dry white wine – typically a good quality wine is used and perhaps consumed along with the dish later on.
  6. Chilli
  7. Salt and pepper

The local origin and high quality of the dish is what makes it special and unique. For the true version, it must be eaten in the region. This is a great example of the slow food philosophy, that of celebrating traditional recipes, passed down through the generations, and foods that are locally grown and produced with attention to quality and technique. This recipe is so simple, but its simplicity is delicious.


We can do our best with our own local ingredients to replicate the dish. It won’t be quite the same but near-enough. It’s the perfect week-night dinner, only taking 20 minutes to prepare and cook. So join us in honouring a community that takes true pride in the food they produce and consume from locally sourced ingredients.





  • Spaghetti 400g
  • Good quality bacon 100g
  • Pecorino cheese 75g
  • Tomatoes –good quality cherry or plum tomatoes 350g
  • Dry white wine 50ml
  • Chili 1
  • Extra virgin olive oil 1tbs
  • Salt and pepper



  1. Cut bacon into small thin strips
  2. Finely grate pecorino cheese
  3. Dice tomatoes
  4. Finely chop chili



Heat olive oil in a pan over low-medium heat. Add bacon and cook until golden. Add the white wine and bring to a simmer. Add tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Add chili. Add bacon/wine mixture to the tomatoes and leave to simmer on low heat.

Boil salted water and add pasta. Cook pasta according to instructions (if fresh, drain soon after water comes to the boil. If dry, cook 2 minutes less than instructed as it will continue to cook after draining). Add cheese to the drained pasta. Add pasta mix to the tomato sauce and stir through. Serve with a further sprinkle of pecorino.

This recipe was adapted from


Red Cross Italy (Croce Rossa Italiana) are working tirelessly on the emergency rescue efforts and providing assistance to community members and visitors who have lost their homes and belongings, sometimes their loved ones. If you would like to donate to this organization, visit their online website:


Author: Kristin McMaster, Master of Nutrition, copyright, all rights reserved 2016