4 Minute Read | By Gino De Blasio
Stage 6 of the Giro and we are in the mountains, the southern most ski access area of Italy unless you count Etna for the times that it is completely safe to ski down an active volcano. Today we discover what it takes to win an Oscar; it has something to do with patience and spaghetti.
As for the riders, you may want to pay attention to the hotly tipped prediction this year, the Sicilian, Nibali as he looks to break some of the other teams with a mountain attack or two!
In 1964, the cinema world was going to have a new genre. Bringing an Italian director, Spanish technical crew and actors from across the globe, the birth of the Spaghetti Western was going to change the way we understood goodies, baddies, mercenaries, barroom brawls and what being the “Lady of the Inn” meant for generations to come.
Sergio Leone’s first success came with, Per Un Pugno Di Dollari (For A Few Dollars More) and subsequently with its follow up, Il Buono, Il Brutto e Il Cattivo (The Good, The Bad, The Ugly). Yes, originally released in Italian titles and causing massive confusion in the States, it led to the cinematic genre earning its own unique name; The Spaghetti Western.
Aside from Leone’s highly visual distinctive approach, it was to be a young film composer tasked with bringing the stories to life that would go on to change how music would be scored for feature films and inspire the next wave of movie glitterati queueing at his door wanting their work to be scored.
Ennio Morricone was the composer and with his take on utilising the strangest of equipment to generate sounds, atmosphere and stirring audio effects, his own style would be envied, copied and re-purposed on more occasions than you could shake your whiskey jar swelling, close up of shifty eyes at.
Alas, Ennio had scored the soundtrack to a movie genre that only he really could. Leone would request collaboration, Morricone would kindly reciprocate. From whips to pistols, Fender’s first electric guitar to whistle’s and a jew’s harp, Ennio would revolutionise sound production that has gone to inspire musicians and film scorers since.
Ennio would revolutionise sound production that has gone to inspire musicians and film scorers since.
However, whilst his film scoring earned critical praise across Europe, the Hollywood Foreign Press would make Leonardo Di Caprio’s wait for an Oscar look like a speedy boarding queue in comparison. (For those of you who don’t know what speedy boarding is, it’s a way for budget airlines to charge you money to make you queue first, to get on a bus with the other passengers and then make you wait on some stairs whilst it’s raining; but still pretend that you’re better than the average traveller).
With 5 nominations over 40 years, and films including The Mission (‘86), The Untouchables (‘87), Bugsy (‘91), and Malena’ (‘00) (not forgetting a clerical error making him miss nomination for Once Upon A Time in America (‘84) ) Morricone must have been thinking his chances of winning the statuette were as good as being selected for The Hunger Games.
It would be Quentin Tarantino that would secure success for the Italian composer with his latest film, The Hateful Eight (‘16). After working working with Morricone’s individual pieces on the Kill Bill series, Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained* he turned to the veteran sound master for the latest installment in the Spaghetti Western inspired film.
Flying to Rome, he pleaded with the composer to produce an original score (the first with the masterful director), but with one condition; it had to be done within a month. Morricone, who, out of respect for the late Leone hadn’t scored a Spaghetti Western for 40 years was initially reluctant. After discovering that the film had been produced and was waiting for a soundtrack, he nearly didn’t go ahead with the project, but Tarantino proverbially chewed the fat and got the composer excited enough to proceed.
44 awards later, (with an honorary lifetime achievement Oscar in 2007), Ennio Morricone picked up the prize for Best Original Score at the 88th Academy Awards; all thanks to the homage of a Spaghetti Western.
Spaghetti of course isn’t just reserved for racially stereotyping films made by Italians in Hollywood; it’s also the food source of the South, and Abruzzo has two classic spaghetti dishes to its name.
Spaghetti of course isn’t just reserved for racially stereotyping films made by Italians in Hollywood
Spaghetti alla Chitarra is one of Abruzzo’s most famous exports. Taking the form of spaghetti, it’s slightly flatter, and is traditionally fresh made with eggs, durum wheat and water. But what makes this truly unique is how the pasta is shaped. Using a wooden board with multiple slicers, known as a chitarra (guitar), the pasta dough is rolled over these blades forming flat, thick spaghetti; as wikipedia best puts it; “pasta makers from Abruzzo bring down the cut dough by passing a finger on it, as they would “play an arpeggio“.
Traditionally served with lamb, (a staple for the farmers in the region), the thick ragu sauce and meatballs make this the pasta choice for lazy Sunday lunches. Food52 treats this beautiful dish with a historic application with this wonderful recipe.
Abruzzo’s second favourite dish has led many a pope to send his cooks to learn the ways of the Amatrice chefs; spaghetti Amatriciana is for many Italians like choosing between Jennifer Lawrence (carbonara) and Jessica Chastain.
Whilst one is known across Lazio and in particular as a Roman dish, the other lies firmly in the mountain tops of Abruzzo where guanciale, tomatoes and pecorino are used to make a flavoursome sauce. With the first recounting appearing as early as 1790, Francesco Leonardi wrote a recipe that finds most common ground to Amatriciana in L’Apicio Moderno.
Amatriciana has in fact become such a popular dish, (don’t worry Jessica, we’re not making any connections), that the local council of Amatrice is under the legal course of making the preparation and final sauce a protected product. Unlike the version found in Rome, which has onions and garlic, the licensee must prepare the dish without. If that sounded complicated, I apologise.
So what’s the best recipes for amatriciana sauce? Marc from NoRecipes has a tasty variety on his blog here. Nigella Lawson has a recipe (sent in from a third party) that has a more Roman twist on the flavourings – they won’t win any awards then… And finally, Jamie Oliver has a recipe (another contribution – guys, start making your own!) which is also a good starting point.