If you’ve never been to the small towns of Italy you would not understand the deep, profound sadness I have for the people of Amatrice, Saletta, Accumoli, Arquata del Tronto in the wake of this devastating earthquake. My family has spent year after year crisscrossing the Italian countrysides, mountains, and beaches. We are diehard fans of the little towns, the hamlets, the villages. We plan our trips not around what big cities we would like to see, but which tiny ones we have to experience.
For people from a country that always bemoans the disappearance of the “social tribe”, being in these places is just magical. The sense of community among the residents is jaw dropping. Everyone knows everyone and their families going back hundreds of years, if not more. But what is even more astounding is how freely these very special people share their love of one another and their towns with outsiders. You are immediately welcomed into their social tribe and you feel their love. Yes, their love. They don’t welcome you because they’ve decided they like you, they welcome you because their hearts embraced yours as soon as you said ciao. This is how my kids have come to have “aunties” and “cousins” and even an Honorary Gramps sprinkled throughout Italy and how we’ve been invited home for lunch by complete strangers. It’s the love.
So as I sit here tonight, still trying to process how so many of these magical, special towns with the best people humankind has to offer have been destroyed, all I can think to do is share the love of Amatrice with one of our favorite family recipes. We sat down to share it tonight as we keep Lazio in our prayers, and I hope that you will do the same. And please consider donating to the disaster relief funds of La Stampa (specify your gift is for “Fund 597 Earthquake in Central Italy” or “Fondo 597 Terremoto Centro Italia”) or The Italian Red Cross.
Amatriciana / Sugo / all’Amatriciana
This is the namesake dish of Amatrice. Traditionally made with guanciale (pork jowel) I sub a thick, high-quality applewood smoked bacon. And I omit the red pepper flakes since the Hunt’s Sauce (I use for ease) has had a bit of a kick to it lately and my kids don’t like spicy food.
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, very finely shredded (optional, but I prefer my sauce with it)
1 package thick bacon cut into short strips or guanciale
1 Tetra pack (33.5oz) of Hunt’s Sauce (you can make your own using San Marzano tomatoes, but this is easiest)
Pinch of red pepper flakes (if you like heat)
1 lb Spaghetti (this is the traditional way but Bucatini is used in Rome and Renne Rigate stands up nicely to this sauce and doesn’t require cutting for littles)
Pecorino Romano, freshly grated
In a heavy bottomed pan, add olive oil, onions, and carrot (if using) and cook until softened.
In a skillet, brown the bacon (not until crispy) and then transfer the bacon and a good portion of the grease to your big pan.
Add the entire package of Hunt’s Sauce to the pan (and red pepper if using) and give everything a good stir. Put the lid on and set your stove to simmer. Leave the sauce as long as you can (but it is still delicious after only waiting for the pasta to cook).
Cook your pasta until it is a bit more firm than al dente, then drain it and add the pasta into the sauce’s pan. Give it a good stir, put the lid back on, and check for doneness after 2 minutes or so.
Serve piping hot with a generous helping of Pecorino.