The first known written recipe of tomato sauce for pasta appears in the Italian cookbook L’Apicio moderno (The Modern Apicius) from 1790, by Roman chef Francesco Leonardi. When and where tomatoes were added to amatriciana, however, is unclear. Some sources say as early as the end of the 18th century; others claim tomatoes were a much later addition, even as recently as after World War II, and may have first been added in Rome. In their book, Pasta the Italian Way, food historian Oretta Zanini De Vita and Maureen Fant note that because tomatoes don’t grow well around Amatrice, they were probably canned.
Despite being considered a Roman pasta, amatriciana (like gricia) carries the name of a village located outside the city. Located in northern Lazio region, the town of Amatrice is where most say that Amatriciana was created and brought to Rome when, to escape the Apennines during winter, Amatrice shepherds came to sell their regional products. (The dish also goes by the spelling “matriciana” in Rome. Some say this refers to the word matrice, which is the brand, or identification number that was pressed into the guanciale.)
No matter where it originated, the residents of Amatrice are protective of the dish, which is ingrained in the town’s heritage and legacy. For example: In 2015, local officials publicly denounced one of Italy’s most famous chefs, Carlo Cracco, after he revealed on national television that his secret “amatriciana” ingredient was sautéed garlic.