Amatriciana pasta festival returns to quake-hit Amatrice

After a two year absence, the town that was devastated by an earthquake in August 2016 is welcoming home the festival which celebrates a pasta sauce to which it lent its name.

Amatriciana pasta festival returns to quake-hit Amatrice
Photo: lorenzograph/Depositphotos

The celebration of the recipe known all around the world is returning to its roots after a two year hiatus. The town of Amatrice in Lazio, which was struck by a devastating 6.2 magnitude earthquake in which 299 people were killed on August 24th, 2016, will once again come alive with the rich scents of tomato, olive oil, local pork, pepper, pecorino cheese and white wine. 

READ ALSO: Why Italy's quake-hit Amatrice will never be the same again

Amatriciana, one of Italy's most famous pasta sauces, takes it name from the quake-affected region. The festival has been running for more than a half century and is organised by the local 'proloco,' the community. 

This year's poignant celebration includes 19 different live events, including a series of jazz concerts under the banner of 'Italian jazz for the earthquake regions'. Concerts will take place in Amatrice on September 1st as part of a solidarity tour by musicians, which has the support of Italy's Ministry of Culture. 

The Sagra degli Spaghetti all'Amatriciana starts on Friday August 31st and runs until September 2nd. Culinary events include a course – replete with a tasting – on how to recognize fake extra virgin olive oil, a presentation on ancient techniques for making local cured meats and workshops on making the ultimate tomato preserve, according to the full program published by the Amatrice town council. Tickets for the culinary fare can be purchased on site. 

READ ALSO: The one dessert you have to try in each of Italy's regions”

“We have chosen to move forward. Every step we take is a step towards the future,” Amatrice's mayor, Filippo Palombini, told Italian daily Repubblica. “We are still in an emergency, but if we want to look ahead we must do it by first passing through our traditions, and the festival is a piece of history of this city and this land,” added Palombini. 

READ MORE: Nine delicious Italian summer delicacies you have to taste

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Kipferl: Explaining the Austrian (not French) roots of Italy’s cornetto

Italy's beloved cornetto is known as a cousin of the French croissant - but did you know both are thought to have originated in Austria?

Kipferl: Explaining the Austrian (not French) roots of Italy's cornetto

As popular a breakfast food as the cornetto (or brioche, if you’re up north) is in Italy, you won’t find anyone who claims the iconic pastry is an Italian invention.

But what may come as a surprise, given the croissant’s strong associations with France, is that it didn’t originate there either, but in Austria.

READ ALSO: Italian pastries: Is it a cornetto, croissant or brioche?

Although there is debate over the origin story, some say the crescent-shaped pastry can be traced back as far back as the 12th century. 

The City of Vienna says the oldest representation “can be found in the (medieval manuscript) ‘Hortus deliciarum’ from the time of Frederick I Barbarossa; there are also a few croissants that can be seen on a set table”.

The first written mention of a crescent-shaped baked good can be found in the 13th century, in Jans Enenkel’s ‘Princes’ Book’, according to the City of Vienna

At the beginning of the 17th century, the Kipferl appeared as a specialty from bakers in Mödling, south of Vienna, who were competing with Viennese bakers. It is also said to have appeared in cookbooks of that time..

Other tales point to the Kipferl being founded as a celebration of the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in the Battle of Vienna in the late 17th century. 

According to one legend, when the Ottoman empire besieged Vienna, they wanted to work their way into the city with the help of a tunnel.

But they hadn’t reckoned with Austrian bakers. As usual, the bakers practiced their craft at night, and since it was quiet, they heard the underground digging, shoveling and scratching.

READ ALSO: Four myths about ‘traditional’ Italian food you can stop believing

So the industrious bakers sounded the alarm, and in gratitude for their vigilance they received a license to bake croissants in the shape of the Turkish crescent. One particular couple, Peter and Eva Wendler, are cited as the inventors of the Kipferl. However, most historians and experts say this is likely incorrect. 

According to pastry chef Jürgen Davis from the Institute of Culinary Education (ICF), who trained in Vienna, these tales are “almost certainly untrue”. 

From Vienna to Venice

The Kipferl eventually made its way to Paris where, as our sister site The Local France explains, it was popularised by Austrian migrants August Zang and Ernest Schwartzer, who opened a bakery in Rue de Richelieu, Paris in 1837.

But the same pastry is thought to have reached Venice quite a bit earlier than that – around the late 1600s – thanks to the intense commercial relations that existed between Venice and Vienna in the 17th century. From there, the croissant and the cornetto evolved differently.

If you’ve ever tasted a cornetto (which means ‘little horn’ in Italian), you’ll know that the flavour and texture differ noticeably from those of a French croissant.

A custard cream-filled Italian cornetto.

A custard cream-filled Italian cornetto. Photo by Filippo Ghiglioni on Unsplash

That’s because the Italian version has eggs and sugar in the dough (and is often dusted with icing sugar), while the French version uses neither and contains more butter, leading to a softer, richer pastry that has a more neutral flavour.

Italian cornetti, like other pastries popular in the south, are also sometimes made with lard instead of butter, and tend to be straighter and less curled than a croissant.

Quite why this is the case is unclear, but, as mentioned above, in the north of Italy cornetti are widely referred to as brioche (pronounced the French way), despite having almost nothing in common with actual brioche.

In the Sicily, meanwhile, a brioche is something much closer to the French version; a very soft and light sweetened bread, usually topped with a distinctive ball of dough (‘brioche col tuppo‘) and often served filled with gelato or granita.