Because amatriciana is a classic dish it has a long history and because it is Italian, this history is controversial and hotly disputed. Most but not all agree that “amatriciana” comes from Amatrice, a tiny town in the mountains bordering Abruzzo about 100 miles from Rome. (Some Romans claim that the dish is truly alla matriciana, developed by Romans and that Amatrice has nothing to do with such culinary bliss). Most agree that the dish descends from gricia, a pasta dish made with pepper, cheese, and smoked pork jowl, also known as guanciale.
The first written record of this dish is from chef Francesco Leonardi who served Amatriciana at a banquet at the Quirinal Palace (Quirinal Palace is the official residence of the President of the Italian Republic) in honor of Emperor Francis I of Austria, organized by Pope Pius VII in 1816. Leonardi was the author of a cooking encyclopedia in seven volumes, ‘The Modern Apicius’ or the art of preparing every kind of food. It is a list of 3000 recipes with stories and tips. He was the first chef to frequently use the tomatoes and to transform ‘Gricia pasta’ in the most famous ‘Amatrice’. His version includes macaroni, Amatrice guanciale, tomatoes, onion and pecorino. Since then and until the beginning of ‘900, the popularity of this dish became undisputed in Rome, and many hosts took the nickname Matriciani to indicate the profession. True amatriciana has neither onion, or garlic. Guanciale is used and not bacon. In Amatrice, the recipe is made with maccheroni and in Rome it is made with the bucatini pasta shape.