When celebrity chefs feel the need to reinvent the wheel: Carlo Cracco and his infamous garlicky Amatriciana

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

Spaghetti all’Amatriciana

Last month, the Italian culinary world has been shocked by the Amatriciana recipe suggested by one of our superstar chefs: Carlo Cracco.

While attending an Italian TV show, the famous chef listed a garlic clover as one of the ingredients of the worldwide known pasta dish!  Anyone who is only vaguely familiar with (authentic) Italian cuisine knows that garlic does not belong in the Amatriciana (for reference, check out our recipe for an authentic Amatriciana)!

As if the first slap in the face of Italian culinary tradition wasn’t enough, during an episode of the Italian edition of Masterchef, first Joe Bastianich and then Cracco himself suggested that one of the contestants use some onion when making “pasta alla Gricia”, the famous ancestor of the Amatriciana which doesn’t call for tomatoes and… most certainly does not call for onions either!!!

Enough was enough, so much so that specialized media, social networks, restaurant owners and even the Mayor of Amatrice “took the field” ready to crucify Cracco and his garlicky dish in defense of the one and only recipe. The Amatrice Culinary School went as far as to publicly invite Cracco to visit them so he can finally taste the real thing! Ouch!

I think one of the commentators hit the nail on the head: nobody can dispute that you can get creative in the kitchen and experiment as much as you like, but when you decide to add garlic to the Amatriciana, don’t call it that – because it’s not! As good as it may be with the addition of the extra ingredient, it’s simply another dish!

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

Spaghetti all’Amatriciana

My reaction to all this fuss? One of kind of sadness and disappointment. Both Italian and non-Italian gourmands who happen not to be experts in my country’s cuisine often look up at celebrity chefs like Cracco to learn the Italian food gospel. I think that people who enjoy all that notoriety have the moral responsibility to… spread the word, and spread it right. How can I go on happily complaining about the oh so many restaurants in my adopted country that serve me Amatriciana with garlic and/or onion when one of our star chefs is teaching exactly that? 😉

Anyone who knows me a bit is well aware of my aversion toward social networks. However, in this case, I truly hope their popularity will help to set the record straight!

Curious about a third slap in the already bruised face of Italian culinary tradition? Another Italian hugely popular chef, Davide Oldani, recently declared that butter can be used in making pesto!!! I mean, butter. Seriously? I believe people from Genoa (including Stefano!) and the Liguria region in general must be incessantly calling the food police! Such an affront.

I’m telling you: if another Italian celebrity chef comes along suggesting that heavy cream can be used in making Carbonara, I’ll consider giving up my Italian citizenship!!!

Hope you enjoyed this little foodgate!

F. Xx

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About Francesca

I am a cook and the founder and art director of Flora's Table, the fine cooking and wine blog. Check us out at www.florastable.com :-)
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24 Responses to When celebrity chefs feel the need to reinvent the wheel: Carlo Cracco and his infamous garlicky Amatriciana

  1. I cheered when reading this as I am right behind you on your views. I can only imagine the uproar in Italy on the addition of a garlic clove. I watched Montalbano again last night and he was enjoying Cannoli and claimed that the only way to make them is with bamboo. I can just see his face if he had watched your celebrity master chef!!!!

  2. Francesca says:

    I’m sure it happens the same with Greek food! I saw that episode, Maria!!! Let’s see if my recollection is correct: Montalbano waiting for Doctor Pasquano … stealing one cannolo and eating the rest of them with the Doctor? 😉

  3. I enjoyed your footage post Francesca. I know very, very little about Italian cuisine but still even I was shocked at the idea of putting butter in pesto. Bx 😉

  4. I agree, stay true to the recipe, if you don’t it is simply not that dish, it’s something else. Garlic in Amatriciana should never happen and I cannot believe anyone would use butter in pesto.

  5. Zoale.com says:

    Love this post Francesca! I totally agree with you, and still can’t get over anyone using butter in pesto 🙂

  6. I’m not an authority on Italian cooking, but this was a very interesting and entertaining article. I love Suzanne’s comment about ‘…I cannot believe anyone would use butter in pesto.’ 😀 )))

    • Francesca says:

      Believe it, believe it! 😉 Thank you, Fae! And good luck for your transition to the new site! Very exciting news! 🙂

    • (BTW Francesca… My blog has moved to a new self-hosting site. I published a post a few hours ago. Can you see it in your Reader? If you do, I’m glad. If not, and you are interested in signing up for e-mail notifications, please do so at fae-magazine.com.) Thanks, 🙂

  7. Great post, I truly understand your frustration Francesca (butter in pesto…). The same when I see couscous boiled and not steamed during hours and hours 🙂

    • Francesca says:

      I’m so glad you share my sentiment, Linda! Oops! I didn’t know couscous is not supposed to be boiled. I’ll have to look into it! Thank you! 🙂

  8. Dina says:

    We loved your foodgate, Francesca!! Full of humor, interesting and educating with great photos from Stefano. 🙂
    We look forward to the next one. Hmmmm … NOT to use heavy cream in Carbonara … Klausbernd told me to make a clear note of this one … 😉
    A big hug and lots of love from all of us,
    Dina xo

  9. Fab post Francesca! I’m with you, don’t mess with tradition… and if you do, make sure you call it something else and not by it’s traditional name!

  10. Mary says:

    Great post Francesca – love the dish, no butter in pesto for me!

  11. This is hilarious. I wonder if the question is one of semantics. Like maybe he can call it an Amatriciana and then say “but i added garlic” so it’s not traditional. As bloggers we adapt recipes all the time and I’ve been on the receiving end of such criticism. A traditional Eastern European dish (my ancestry) is kasha varnishkes. I made them on my blog but I added chestnuts and my family FREAKED OUT. They were like “chestnuts have no place there. What did you do”. I kind of agree with them, but it was just an experiment. I guess we hold celebrities with a public forum to a higher standard.

    • Francesca says:

      I’m sorry Amanda but I’m with your family on this. Italian cuisine (like any other cuisine) has some “milestone” recipes, some basics that were created centuries ago and are perfect as they are. I’m a food purist: learn and master the basics first and then create and experiment on your own as much as you want. When someone asks me to cook a traditional Italian dish, I stay true to the old recipe even if I don’t like it or I think that a different ingredient would complement the dish better. That’s the only way I can pass on a little piece of my tradition and let other people (especially those belonging to different cultures) appreciate it. And you are absolutely right about celebrities! That’s because they can reach a number of people and audiences that us mortals will never be able to.
      Thank you so much for your thoughtful contribution to this subject and have a wonderful Sunday, Amanda!

  12. Food gate! Haha- love it! And I am also throwing my hands up in despair at the suggestion of butter in pesto!

  13. Francesca says:

    I think despair is the right sentiment in this case! 😉 Thank you, MM!

  14. Sophie33 says:

    I loved this cool post! I loved the 1st photo the most! Original!
    hahahahahahha,..A lovely post! I loved reading it all,…:)

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