And now… PASTA! Pleasure of the Roman cooking great first courses
When you visit Rome, among its monuments, its churches and breathtaking beauties, you can’t miss its great food!
Roman tradition is famous for its recipes, mostly poor and peasant’s, all over the world, attracting the most exigent and refined tastes. Among the Roman dishes, rich in proposals and ideas, the first courses are surely the kings of the tradition: pasta has a fundamental role in the cooking, seducing tens of thousands of people unable to think a so simple dish could be so good.
The mix of strong and delicate flavours, various ingredients perfectly melted, makes each dish a poem you can taste little by little, hoping it will never finish.
Roman trattorias are the best place to discover those excellent dishes, usually cooked by women, the real keepers of the tradition, able to make dishes tasting the countryside and the origins, guiding you along a taste tour.
Which are the musts in your tour? Surely Carbonara, Gricia, Cacio e pepe and Amatriciana!
If you visit Rome without eating Carbonara, you lose one of its wonders! Carbonara is almost a God in Rome, is a cult and if you modify its recipe, especially by some bold foreign cook, it is revolution!
If you want to eat a real Carbonara, you must reserve a table in an osteria, in the traditional places where the host will be glad to tell you its history, as it usually happens about cult objects with uncertain origins, mixed with popular myths and legends.
According to one of them, Carbonara comes from a carbonaro (a chimney sweep) who opened his own osteria in Rome, inventing an original dish coming from his previous job, but there is no historical demonstration of it.
The most common story is probably the most real. During the war, the centre of Italy was besieged by American troops fighting for freedom. The soldiers were very young and they used to feel nostalgia of home and food. In Abruzzi, among Gran Sasso and Maiella mountains, they tasted pasta cacio e ova: it was good, but probably too light for them. Abruzzi has always been a gastronomical peasant traditional region, where bacon and cheek lard were very used, so mixing those ingredients with the bacon they loved, they browned it, adding it to pasta cacao e ova, creating the most famous Roman dish in the Italian cooking history.
A beautiful story, yes, but you probably now want to taste this delicious dish and, if you are gastronomes and you will taste it in different places in Rome, you will surely notice some of them use bacon and others cheek lard.
Yes, because there are two absolutely different philosophies about the right ingredient and they will never find an agreement, because as it is so old and controversial, without any historical sources, we will never know which the original and right ingredient is.
According to the US theory, it is pancetta, so the most similar to bacon; according to the carbonaio theory (or the carbonari’s if we also consider the version born in Polesine, during carbonari meetings), you must absolutely use cheek lard.
Except for this detail, anyway very important, the most important ingredient is the egg, not fried but just creamed together with bacon (or cheek lard), pepper and Pecorino (Roman Pecorino!) cheese.
Delight yourself with its great yellow cream and taste any of its feature: it is usually made with spaghetti, but you can also find it made with tonnarelli or mezze maniche.
If Carbonara is the queen of Roman dishes, probably because the most famous one, there are also other recipes seducing you with their fantastic taste. Gricia is probably a superb dish, born on the Appennini, where people used to exploit all what the earth offered them, as it was a very poor area. You can taste it in any Roman osteria and there are no different interpretations of the original recipe. You can’t get wrong: it is made of cheek lard! The procedure is similar to Carbonara’s, as many people think it comes from, but without eggs. But no, it is an older recipe, made of few easy reachable ingredients, even by poorer people. It is made of browned cheek lard, creamy Roman Pecorino cheese and pepper: nothing more, to create this wonderful dish.
In the Roman osterias offering Gricia, cooks would never reveal its recipe: even if ingredients are always the same, preparation can change, especially concerning creaming the cheese.
Never ask for the cream when you order Gricia in a Roman osteria: there is no cream in it, as in Carbonara or Cacio e pepe. What we call “cream” is just the result of the mix of cooking water, Pecorino cheese and pepper, but every cook makes it differently.
Coming from Appennino, the majority of restaurants in Rome propose it served with spaghetti alla chitarra and tonnarelli, but if you prefer short pasta, you can also find mezze maniche, great to collect the cream.
Cacio e pepe
It is the oldest one and surely the easiest. Appennino shepherds needed to eat simple dishes, made of easily reachable ingredients at any time. And what’s better then pasta with just Pecorino cheese and pepper?
Pecorino is one of the most famous cheeses of the Appennino and pasta gave lot of energy to the shepherds to support their hard work.
It is the most common dish and, even if so simple (someone says just apparently), it will seduce you.
Do you know why it is one of the most difficult and the most representing dish, according to some cooks? Because cooking it you can’t lie: with a few ingredients, really just one if you don’t consider pepper, you must use just high quality sheep cheeses, whose taste is the real protagonist of this recipe!
As its name says, it was born in Amatrice, a little delicious town, considered part of Abruzzi instead of Lazio (Rieti province) until a few centuries ago, not in Rome as well.
And so, as the other recipes, it was born on the Appennino too. It is an evolution of Gricia, made with the same ingredients but adding tomato.
It came to Rome during 1700s and 1800s: there were many people moving to Rome to open their osterie from Amatrice, as Matriciana was an inn with kitchen at the time, where Amatriciana was obviously its symbol. Why do you read Matriciana instead of Amatriciana sometimes? Don’t worry: it is just the result of the common Roman dialect apheresis!
Do you want to stay in Rome?
For this location we recommend Hotel Panama Garden, ideal for discovering Rome thanks to its strategic location.