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In the picturesque mountains of Central Italy, the beautiful town of Amatrice was preparing for their 50th annual sagra (this is the Italian word for a local festival, often centered around a particular dish) of the local pasta dish, Amatriciana, when disaster struck. The town was shaken to the ground by a devastating earthquake just days before the celebration, on August 24th, 2016.
In a show of support, restaurants, food writers and bloggers, and home cooks all over the world participated in a virtual sagra. (I love the food community! What better way to support an Italian community, than by rallying around a dish of pasta!)
If you would like to participate, simply whip up a batch of Amatriciana (The recipe is posted below. This dish is really easy and quick to make, yet loaded with flavor!), raise a glass of Italian wine, and consider donating a few dollars to relief efforts. As a quick Google search will reveal, there are lots of funds set up already. I rounded up one in English, based in the US, that accepts US dollars - ItalianAmericanRelief.org.
While you are at it, why not share your Amatriciana on social to raise awareness? Use the hashtags #virtualsagra and #unamatricianaperamatrice.
1/3cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1. Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil in large stockpot or Dutch oven.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat until shimmering, but not smoking. Add pancetta or bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer pancetta or bacon with slotted spoon to paper towel–lined plate; set aside. If necessary, drain all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet. Add onion to skillet; sauté over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and cook to release flavor, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and salt to taste; simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
3. While sauce is simmering, add 11/2 teaspoons salt and pasta to boiling water. Cook until pasta is al dente; drain and return pasta to empty pot.
4. Add pancetta to tomato sauce and adjust seasoning with salt. Add sauce to pot with pasta and toss over low heat to combine, about 30 seconds. Add cheese and toss again; serve.
Recipe shared with permission from Cook's Illustrated.
Notes from Cook's Illustrated:
For a pasta alla Amatriciana recipe that would do this classic sauce justice, we used pancetta, if available (and substituted bacon if not). A sauce made with diced tomato and hot red pepper flakes gave us the bold, brash flavor we were looking for in our Amatriciana recipe. Adding the cooked pancetta at the end kept it crisp.
This dish is traditionally made with bucatini, also called perciatelli, which appear to be thick, round strands but are actually thin, extralong tubes. Linguine works fine, too. When buying pancetta, ask the butcher to slice it 1/4 inch thick; if using bacon, buy slab bacon and cut it into 1/4-inch-thick slices yourself. If the pancetta that you’re using is very lean, it’s unlikely that you will need to drain off any fat before adding the onion. Use 1 1/2 small (14 1/2-ounce) cans of diced tomatoes, or dice a single large (28 ounce) can of whole tomatoes packed in juice.
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