The Origins: Amatrice

The Casale del Giglio Wine Estate has strong ties with the ancient hill town of Amatrice. Surrounded by the wooded slopes of the Monti della Laga, Amatrice is famous for its culinary traditions. For Dino Santarelli, founder of the Estate, and his wife Ernesta d’Orazio, Amatrice was home.

When Dino Santarelli was born here, his family had been in the wine business for over a century. In the early days of the last century Ernesta D’Orazio’s family exported the local ”Pecorino Romano” cheese to North America.

The intense flavour of this cheese combined with that of Amatrice’s traditional cured pork or Guanciale, give “Pasta all’Amatriciana” or “Gricia”  its own distinctive taste. The perfect complement to “Gricia”  is Antinoo, a blend  of luscious Viognier and Chardonnay grapes, aged in barrique.
The Santarelli family, in keeping with the traditions of Amatrice, like to offer their guests this very particular ‘taste experience’.

La Gricia

In times past, shepherds from the countryside and coastal plains near Rome would drive their flocks to the high summer pastures of the Monti della Laga, the part of Italy’s central Appenine chain which surrounds the pleasant hill town of Amatrice (950 msl).
Throughout the ‘Transumanza’, as this migration was called, the shepherds would prepare the ‘GRICIA’, considered by many to be the true ‘white’ Pasta all’Amatriciana’, i.e. without tomato.

Ingredients for 4 servings:
– 500 gms. ‘mezze maniche rigate’ (short ribbed macaroni or other short pasta).
– 500 gms. trimmed ‘guanciale’ from Amatrice.
Guanciale is a type of Italian cured pork made from the cheeks and jowls of the pig. The weight of the guanciale before trimming would be around 700/800 gms.
100 gms. ‘Pecorino Romano’ – a strong sheep’s milk cheese.
– Rock salt & freshly ground black pepper.

Method:

This is the traditional recipe, handed down from generation to generation since the 18th century:
Remove the rind and any yellow fat from the cured pork.
Dice the pork into small pieces (3 x 1cm. approx) taking care to remove the peppercorns.
Place the diced pork in a large (preferably iron) frying pan without oil and stir regularly over a low flame for about 20 minutes or until the pork is nicely browned.
Remove the pork from the pan with a skimmer or slotted spoon, conserving the melted fat in the pan for later.
Set the pork aside on kitchen paper (old-fashioned straw paper would be ideal) where, as the excess fat is absorbed, it will turn crispy. Bring a pot of cold water to a rolling boil, add the rock salt and then the pasta.
Cook the pasta and drain thoroughly while still “al dente” (firm but tender).
Return the pasta to the pot and stir in the crispy pork and melted fat to taste.
To complete the preparation, add a generous handful of grated pecorino cheese and a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper.

Spaghetti all’Amatriciana

Ingredients for 4 servings:

– 500 gms Spaghetti or Bucatini
– 500 gms ‘Guanciale’ from the town of Amatrice in Central Italy (150 miles West from Rome)
(guanciale is a type of Italian cured pork  made from the cheeks and jowls of the pig)
– 1000 gms tinned Italian plum tomatoes
– 150 gms “Roman Pecorino” cheese (a strong sheep’s milk cheese)
– 1 Italian peperoncino (red chile pepper)
– Salt

Method:

The ‘Ritual’ begins with the preparation of the ‘Guanciale’.
Remove the rind from the cured pork. Dice the pork into small pieces (3 x 1 cm approx).
Place the diced pork in a large (preferably iron) frying pan and brown over a high flame, without oil, until crispy.
Remove the pork from the pan with a skimmer or slotted spoon. Set the pork aside on absorbent paper (old fashioned straw paper would be ideal).
Add the chopped, seeded tomatoes and the ‘peperoncino’ to the melted pork fat in the pan, cover and allow to cook for at least 30 minutes.
Cook the Spaghetti in salted water and drain while still ‘al dente’ (firm but tender).
Stir the pasta into the sauce in the pan, add the crispy pork and a generous handful of grated Pecorino cheese.
Serve.