CHIAVARI, ITALY – The Italians are calling it the Amatriciana War and in the center of the scandal is celebrity chef Carlo Cracco. Cracco who has cooked alongside famed French chef Alain Ducasse, has earned two Michelin stars for his restaurant in Milan, but the chef’s professional pedigree did not stop the local council in Amatrice, a town two hours from Rome, from publicly denouncing his mistake
Cracco’s sin? The chef confessed on national television that he used unpeeled, sautéed garlic as the “secret ingredient” in his amatriciana, one of Rome’s classic pasta dishes.
The town council of Amatrice, where the dish originates, accused Cracco of a lapse in judgment. “We are confident that this was a slip of the tongue by the celebrity chef, given his professional history,” the council said in a statement.
According to officials in Amatrice, there are six ingredients that make up a real amatriciana: guanciale (pork jowl), pecorino cheese, white wine, tomatoes from San Marzano, pepper and hot peppers.
The town’s deputy mayor, Piergiuseppe Monteforte, denied that officials were being too strict. “By using other ingredients you change not only the flavor of the dish, but also the history of it,” he said. “If you use ingredients like garlic or onion in amatriciana, it means you are ignoring a tradition that is almost 1,000 years old, a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation.”
|Chef Carlo Cracco|
Amatriciana originated in the the hills overlooking Amatrice, when shepherds used to bring cheese and pieces of pork jowl with them during long stays away from home and cook them in an iron pan. They made fresh pasta using flour and water that was then wrapped around a piece of wire, forming a tubular shape (bucatini) that is still used today.
This original dish is now known as white amatriciana. It was only at the end of the 1700s that tomato and hot peppers, two ingredients native to America and brought to Italy were added to the dish to create the modern version.
Grazia Lo Bianco, the owner of Matricianella, a small restaurant in central Rome that specializes in the dish, agreed with the Council’s complaint. “The flavor of the pork should be dominant,” she explained.
|Basic Ingredients for a Traditional Amatriciana|
”Some people added onion to their sauce, but that is offensive, she said. “If there are rules, they need to be respected, it’s like any job.”
For Lo Bianco, the rules do not apply only to the sauce, but also to the correct pasta, meaning bucatini. However she admitted that some of her customers prefer rigatoni over bucatini because it is less messy.
“We have to compromise when businessmen come to eat and say they want rigatoni with the amatricana sauce because they have a meeting and don’t want to show up with spots of red sauce all over their white shirts. We can’t say no.”
An Amatrice official says that while bucatini used to be considered the ideal pasta because it was used by the shepherds, these days, others can be used. Even the traditional amatriciana festival in Amatrice uses spaghetti.
“We say that to make a real amatriciana you have to make the sauce according to tradition. Then add bucatini or spaghetti, whichever you prefer.”
|The Real Deal|
Recipe for Amatriciana, from the office of the Mayor of Amatrice
Ingredients (for four people) 500g spaghetti (1lb), 125g (1/4 lb) guanciale (pork jowl) from Amatrice, a spoon of extra virgin olive oil, a drop of dry white wine, six or seven San Marzano tomatoes or 400g (either fresh or 1 large can) of peeled tomatoes, some hot peppers, grated pecorino from Amatrice or Roman pecorino, salt.
Directions Place the oil, chopped hot peppers and guanciale, which you have cut into small pieces, into an iron pan. It is a long standing tradition to use the soft part of the pork jowl, or else it is not an amatriciana. Only that way will it have a delicacy and sweetness of a true amatriciana. Sauté these ingredients in a pan. Add the wine.
If you are using fresh tomatoes blanch them so that you can easily remove the skin, and then quarter them, remove the seeds and add to the pan. Or use canned tomatoes. Season with salt and allow the sauce to cook over the heat for a few minutes.
In the meantime, boil water add salt and cook the pasta until it is al dente, or still slightly firm. Drain and place in a bowl. Add the grated pecorino. Wait for a few seconds and then add the sauce to the bowl. If you wish, you can add more pecorino after it is served.