Amatrice's namesake dish may be its salvation
Pork jowl, Pecorino cheese, chiles, tomatoes: They’re the essential makings of classic Amatriciana sauce, and an unmistakeable taste of home for the residents of its namesake village. It may also be one of the few comforts the people of Amatrice have left after a massive earthquake hit central Italy on August 24, laying waste to houses, restaurants, schools, shops, and churches—and taking the lives of nearly 300 victims. After a tragedy of that magnitude, it’s hard to know where to even begin a recovery attempt. With virtually nothing left of Amatrice—which bore the brunt of the loss—survivors and would-be helpers are starting with the very basics. They’re feeding people, body and soul, with the sauce that put Amatrice on the map.
The town had been set to spend the last weekend of August holding its 50th annual sagra—or food festival—in celebration of spaghetti all’Amatriciana, and visitors had already begin their pilgrimage. Four hours after the quake, Italian graphic artist and food blogger Paolo Campana launched a Facebook campaign suggesting that for every plate of Amatriciana-sauced pasta they ordered or consumed, each diner should contribute one euro to rescue efforts. Restaurants throughout Italy quickly rallied, and soon after, nearly 600 had agreed to join Campana’s effort—often matching customers' cash with some of their own. Some swiftly organized events, serving thousands of plates of pasta all'Amatriciana to diners eager to put both mouths and money into helping their fellow man.
At the same time, the American-based, Italian-food-focused website Foodiamo began rallying West Coast restaurants to put Amatriciana pasta and pizza on their menus and donate a portion of the proceeds to “respected and trustworthy organizations such as the Italian Red Cross.” (The Italian Red Cross suggests a donation of two euros—one to victims and one to the Red Cross, itself.) Around two dozen restaurants have answered the call thus far, and earlier this week at the MAD Symposium in Copenhagen, Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini implored the assembled crowd of chefs and food world leaders to place Amatriciana sauce on their restaurant menus as an act of solidarity.
In a statement on the Slow Food website, Petrini wrote: “With a symbolic dish of the gastronomic history of Amatrice, we hope to spread the values of solidarity and sharing all over the world, typical of the farming culture it was born from… With A future for Amatrice (#unfuturoperamatrice), we ask restaurateurs from around the world to put the symbolic dish of this devastated town on their menus. They should keep it on the menu for at least a year, donating a small part of the proceeds to those affected in this tragedy. Furthermore, we ask customers to choose these dishes wherever they find them in restaurants. The funds will be paid directly to the town of Amatrice.”
Though the sauce is most traditionally served over bucatini (a noodle that’s not unlike a thick, hollow spaghetti—ideal for sopping up sauce), it’s a revelation with breakfast or brunch eggs in the form of a frittata, scrambled, or folded into an omelet. Sauce all’Amatriciana is especially excellent for an ersatz Eggs in Purgatory (just heat the sauce in a skillet and drop a couple of eggs in to poach), or swapped in for an Italian-style shakshuka. If you make the dish at home, consider sending a donation to a charity working directly with Italian relief efforts. (CNN’s Impact Your World has a great list.) And if nothing else, take a moment to stop and savor the gift Amatrice has given to the world. The pleasure will stay with you for a while.