Spaghetti All’Amatriciana

When in Italy don’t ask for a plate of ‘spaghetti bolognaise’ (don’t even dare to say ‘spag bol’). The dish simply doesn’t exist in this country but is a concoction made abroad (and, I believe, actually sold in tins in the UK!). Ask instead for ‘tagliatelle al ragù’.  The ragù is a sauce generally made up of the following ingredients (quantities are given for serving four persons):

55 g (1 ¾ oz) butter
55 g (1 ¾ oz) minced prosciutto far or pancetta
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
100 g (3 ½ oz) minced lean veal or beef
100 g (3 ½ oz) minced lean pork
1 glass of dry red wine
A little beef or chicken stock
3 tbsp. tomato paste
Salt and pepper

A short while back at Bagni di Lucca’s super-excellent Circolo dei Forestieri restaurant I had a pasta plate which delights me more than any other. It’s called ‘bucatini all’Amatriciana’. Bucatini is that type of spaghetti which has a hollow centre and amatriciana is a delicious sauce made up of the following ingredients:

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

4 oz. thinly sliced guanciale (cheek of pork) pancetta, or chopped unsmoked bacon

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup minced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 28-oz. can peeled tomatoes with juices


1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino (about 1 oz.)


Amatriciana sauce originates from Amatrice and I shall surely weep next time I order it for Amatrice is now half destroyed, so many of its inhabitants lie dead or just alive waiting to be rescued under rubble, its lovely buildings, which made the town part of Italy’s ‘più belli borghi’ (most beautiful towns), wrecked or destroyed by a devastating seismic shock which I even felt during the night where I live in a hill village near Bagni di Lucca.

Italy, we all know is earthquake country, but this is cruelty indeed! For an earthquake to happen with such a force just four kilometres below ground, at the height of the tourist season on which so many these central Italian towns survive, in the middle of the night, with ever more explosive aftershocks and so, so ironically, days before the town’s great sagra (feast) of ‘gli spaghetti all’amatriciana’ is just too horrible to even imagine.

Italy weeps and will continue to weep as more bodies of men, women and children are extracted from the perilous rubble. We know that Italy, so disorganised in some other ways, pulls itself together heroically in human tragedies such as this one. The army, volunteers, sniffer dogs, everyone is together in this great tragedy.

I’ve lived long enough in Italy to witness the horrors of the L’Aquila earthquake of 2009 which killed over 300 people, to see the aftermath of the Emilia Romagna earthquake of 2012 and to feel our own ‘little’ earthquakes. (For just a few of the earthquakes we’ve had in our area alone (seismic zone level 2) since 2005 see my posts at


Why should the most beautiful country in the world have the worst record for earthquakes? Why should the most wonderful buildings and towns one could possibly visit on this planet be destroyed by nature’s grimacing forces? Why should some of the earth’s most creative and special people have to continually suffer from the unseen clash of seismic plates by night?

God only knows!

Eating spaghetti with Amatriciana sauce will for me from now on have a deeper and so much sadder significance that even its delicious taste can barely allay….


(Amatrice yesterday)


(Amatrice today)







40 thoughts on “Spaghetti All’Amatriciana

  1. What a devastating loss for us all a beautiful area in central Italy 3.36 am 6 .2 on the Richter scale and only 4 – 8 kilometres depth scenes similar to war damage in some way more cruel worse as these victims had no chance of escape whole families are no more. Towns are completely destroyed reduced just to rubble these are horrific events and scenes. My heart weeps for this most sad news and I wish to give my condolences to dear Italy. I praise those brave souls that are working finding and digging out injured but live adults and children. It has already been suggested to rebuild these beautiful towns like Aquila with seismic reinforcement.

    • Thanks you for your heartfelt comment. Italy is indeed shaken not just physically through the terrible earthquake but emotionally too for the suffering of so many of its people.

  2. Francis, this is such a touching post.
    We are all still terribly shocked by what just happened in Italy and it is good to spread the word and talk about it, even if our hearts are crying and nothing can heal right now.
    Our prayers and thoughts are there, in Amatrice and with all those people who are still struggling for their lives. Help Italy!!!

  3. So many people will be affected by this, for years to come. The death toll is so high, and those left behind … how do they get over such a thing.

    I will reblog this on my site, thank you.

  4. Pingback: Spaghetti All’Amatriciana — From London to Longoio (and Lucca and Beyond) Part Two | Hello World

  5. I will definitely have to try these authentic version of what we know as Spaghetti Bolognese (No – never from a tin and never call it Spag Bol). I can only echo the sentiments of others to the awful earthquake. On top of everything else that Italy is going through – hope there is more help quickly.

  6. As a constant visitor to Italy and a lover of its food I loved your recipes. On a more serious note, we can only hope that the authorities get their act together more quickly than they have done in the past, and get the people housed and back on their feet quickly. Already they are querying the lack of planning permits and the structural defects in the buildings? Dare one say it, but is the Mafia involved here once again?

  7. We watch with deep sadness the news coverage of the continuing rescue effort – I say “rescue” because I want to believe that many more people can still be saved … although I know with each passing hour it becomes increasingly dire.
    My thoughts and wishes go to the people affected by this disaster.

    • Thanks for your comment. There’s a new restaurant scheme now whereby if you order Spaghetti all’amatriciana 2 euros goes towards the earthquake disaster fund.Do ask where you eat.

  8. This is a great post. I am looking forward to trying the recipe, but more important, keeping in my thoughts and prayers the victims of the earthquake. I’m sharing this blog on my FaceBook page.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s