Pasta all’amatriciana, also called matriciana, is a meal popular in Roman restaurants and inns, but it originated in the town of Amatrice, in the central Italian province of Rieti. There are three key ingredients in the basic meal: pecorino, tomato sauce and guanciale.
The inclusion of tomato sauce in the ingredients appears to have occurred around the end of year 1600, but there are many variants of the meal so a true recipe is hard to trace.
Background of Amatriciana Sauce’s Origins
In reality, we will be discussing a farmer dish that was mostly passed down verbally from one generation to the other, and while we have access to a few historical records, they’re all quite dissimilar from one another.
However, the thing that’s certain is that the numerous amendments and upgrades given by the diverse recipes do not deviate from the original essence of the dish at all, but they all rather enhance the flavor according to personal requirements, just as it did for the pastors of old times.
To make things simple and objective, we will discuss the Sauce’s history from the perspective of Amatrice, the place that gave the Amatriciana Sauce the fame it has right now.
The History of Amatriciana Sauce
The first historical record of this dish comes from the written notes of Francesco Leonardi, a cook who served it at the Pope’s court in 1816. In the nineteenth century district of Ponte, there was a street called de’Matriciani (named as the Amatriciani alley after 1870) and a square (which is now the Piazza Lancellotti) where the Grici (Sabini) maintained the market, selling bread, salami, and cheese brought from the Sibillini mountains.
Travelling on, they then came to a rest pause near an tavern called The Amatriciano. This inn was where the present day Amatriciana sauce got derived, from a dish called gricia (or griscia). Gricia was a meal that originated in the small town of Grisciano and contained macaroni or spaghetti, seasoned with oil, pepper and “guanciale” or “barbozzo.”
The inclusion of tomato sauce in the modern day recipe, however, goes all the way back to the end of 1700s. The earliest credible evidence of amatriciana sauce being involved in seasoning pasta can be found again in the recipe book of the Roman chef Francesco Leonardi, a cook at the Pope’s court.
During an elite-class ball at that time, Leonardi instituted this famous dish as a part of the feast thrown in honour of Francis I, Emperor of Austria. The emperor was being hosted there at the time by the Pope Pius VII in April 1816 at the Quirinale.
Francesco Leonardi, a Roman by birth, had worked as a chef in the courts of Poland, Germany, Turkey, England as well as France with Richelieu. After these ventures, arrived at the court of Russian Empress Catherine II The Great.
To talk about his versatile experience in Europe’s top courts and the art of food-making, he published L’Apicio Moderno in 1790, an encyclopedia comprising of 7 volumes.