I like pasta. A lot.
Pasta all’amatriciana (or bucatini all’amatriciana depending on whether or not you use bucatini pasta) is a bonafide Italian classic – a veritable blend of rusticity, fresh and local ingredients and a simple combination of flavours.
Although it is generally considered as one of the archetypal Roman dishes (together with spaghetti alla carbonara), amatriciana does not hail from Rome, but rather from the town Amatrice – around 100 miles from Rome in the north-eastern Lazio region. Lazio is renowned for its agriculture and vegetable production – owing largely to its rich and fertile hills. The distinct impact of amatriciana on Italian cuisine and Lazio’s regional identity is evident through its inclusion as a Prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale (PAT) – an official recognition for significant and traditional Italian regional foods.
Historically speaking, the dish is believed to have descended from pasta alla gricia – a shepherd’s dish featuring pepper, cheese and smoked pork jowl (guanciale). However, with the introduction of tomatoes during the Columbian Exchange, tomato was added to this dish and it evolved into amatriciana!
Amatriciana is, above all, a classic pasta sauce centred around four key ingredients: cured pork (or bacon), tomatoes, pecorino cheese and hot peppers (recipe here!). Yet this is only the traditional sauce at a basic level and is subject to much variation. Given Rome’s proximity to Amatrice, they have had a tendency to claim amatriciana as their own and, consequently, they have often added onion, garlic or herbs.
Although the sauce is traditionally served with bucatini (a very thick, hollow spaghetti), the versatility of this dish is exemplified by the potential for varying the type of pasta to suit your preferences (ie. spaghetti, or rigatoni – which I highly recommend!).
Given its esteemed position as a Roman classic, pasta all’amatriciana can certainly be found down under and here in Melbourne, specifically. Speaking from experience, La Camera in Southgate does an excellent take on the this dish (rigatoni, albeit with a slight variation to the sauce), as does Grossi Florentino (if you want the traditional bucatini).