Pasta for a Cause

Virginia restaurants raise money for earthquake victims in Italy. 

Pasta all’ Amatriciana at Fortunato. 

Photo by Jeff Farmer

When Clay Trainum caught wind of the devastating earthquake in Amatrice, Italy last week, the first thing he thought of was hog jowls.

Trainum and his wife Linda own Autumn Olive Farms outside Waynesboro, where they raise heritage breed pigs that forage through the woods for acorns and walnuts, and make nests in piles of leaves to have their litters. Chefs prize AOF pork for its flavor and rich fat cap, which makes it particularly well suited for curing and charcuterie.

Which brings us back to hog jowls. Hog jowls can be cured to make guanciale, a key ingredient in Pasta All’Amatriciana (recipe follows). Before the Aug. 28 disaster, Amatrice was gearing up to host a festival celebrating All’Amatriciana, the little town’s signature pasta dish featuring tomatoes, pork and pecorino cheese. It wasn’t long after the earthquake before restaurants around the world added the dish to their menus, donating a portion of the proceeds to earthquake recovery efforts. Italian restaurants all over the state joined the effort, and for Trainum, just a week for the fundraiser wasn’t enough.

“We want to connect the producer, the chef and the consumer into a long-term unified effort,” Trainum says. “The media coverage is only there until the next big disaster and then they’re gone, but this recovery is going to take time.”

Trainum has donated more than 70 pounds of pork to kickstart the effort. In Richmond, chef Joe Sparatta of Heritage and Southbound will cure the donated meat to serve in the classic pasta dish through September, and then donate 100 percent of the proceeds to to support earthquake recovery.

“It’s a nice thought Clay and his family had, and I wanted to help,” Sparatta says. “Normally it takes a couple of months to cure guanciale, but we can do a short cure with smoking it so it can be ready in a few weeks.” Sparatta and chef Lee Gregory will serve dishes at Southbound, Heritage and The Roosevelt in Richmond.,,,

Here is a sampling of Virginia’s Italian restaurants serving Pasta All’ Amatriciana through September to raise money for earthquake recovery (not all are serving AOF pork):

Fortunato, Roanoke

Nota Bene, Richmond

The Portofino, Arlington

Stuzzi, Richmond

Threepenny Café, Charlottesville

Clay Trainum’s Pasta All’ Amatriciana

1 quart tomato sauce (Trainum uses a homemade sauce of San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, onion, salt and pepper)
1 pound guanciale, cut into 1/4” x 1” pieces 
1 dried red pepper pod, no seeds, chopped
2 teaspoons raw sugar
2 pound spaghetti, bucatini or spiralized zucchini
Pecorino-Romano cheese

Reduce the tomato sauce and chopped red pepper down to a thick sauce. In a separate pan, brown the guanciale nicely but don’t render out too much of the fat. Add the guanciale to the sauce along with 2-3 tablespoons of the rendered guanciale fat. Add the raw sugar, mix well and serve over your noodle of choice. Grate Pecorino-Romano cheese on top and enjoy. 
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