Ferragosto from the beach to the table, the best culinary tradition in Rome and nearby!
Holidays mean relax, trips, entertainment and, with no doubts, good food.
You can find all of these things in Rome, well melted with a glorification of flavours and colours, as a Haute cuisine dish. But the very Master Chef is now history, with his years of selection and mix of flavours and tastes, tradition and innovation, breath-taking places rich in history and dishes ancient as gladiators.
We will lead you to discover the Roman cooking tradition by the arm, even if we must make a selection in the limitless blend of dishes can be proposed by trattorias and osterias, the ancient typical Roman restaurants. But don’t worry, you can take inspiration from these ideas, to taste other different ones: as you know, appetite comes with eating.
Roman cooking tradition comes from peasants society, made of simple but tasty dishes, rural and genuine ingredients, not so refined but masterfully and enthusiastically made, according to old recipes handed down from one generation to another, from the ancient Rome.
And as every peasant dish, made for workers or farmers, they are so rich in calories, nutrient and served in inflated portions.
Meat dishes are made of “quinto quarto” (literally the fifth quarter), that is the rest of the animal, cows or sheeps, after having sold the best parts, actually the front and the rear four quarters.
Only during festivities, tradition allows to serve first-rate meat, chosen between lamb (as Italians say abbacchio) and kid meat, directly bought by the local farmers.
And so, what about “quinto quarto”? That’s easy! Everything you can eat among the offal: tripe, kidneys, spleen, liver, sweetbreads, brain and tongue. By the ox, you can even eat the tail, as the famous dish coda alla vaccinara, and by the sheeps, offal to make coratella alla romana.
What to eat
Making a complete list of typical Roman food is almost impossible, as they are so many as the the eternal city history is, rich in innumerable varieties.
However, if you start from the most famous ones, you will be able to go on, discovering this taste heaven.
Rigatoni con la pajata: it’s the most representative dish of the typical Roman food for sure, especially the Testaccio district food, the Roman neighbourhood, famous for its slaughterhouse. As a matter of fact, that’s the original district of all the dishes made of animal proceeding rests. That’s why rigatoni con la pajata was the favourite dish of the Roman slaughterers, the scortichini as they were called in Italian, who sometimes received rests of animals (offal, paws and tongue), as an extra benefit, they used to dress rigatoni.
Spaghetti alla carbonara: made of eggs, bacon, pepper and Pecorino cheese, characterized by a strong flavour and uncertain origins. Among the numerous hypothesis, here you are the two most popular and similar ones. The first comes from Carbonari revolts, as the ingredients could be stored for a long time in their refuges; the second links to charcoal mines workers, named carbonari, who used to bring pasta, eggs, bacon and cheese in their pockets and sometimes they used to cook it the day before and eat it cold, just by the hands.
Spaghetti alla amatriciana, or just matriciana: named after Amatrice, from shepherds who used to go to the city markets to sell their products, during the period of transhumance in the countryside around Rome. This type of pasta derives from another typical Roman dish, the gricia, to whom they added tomato sauce after tomatoes importation from Americas, becoming the very famous matriciana.
Vermicelli cacao e pepe: with its origins, close to matriciana’s, it was born in the Roman countryside, where shepherds spent a lot of time far from home and used to bring with them some food that could resist for a long time, even being tasty and nutrient, such as pasta secca, Pecorino cheese and pepper. Goethe described its preparation: simply boil maccheroni in pure water, grate some cheese on them, just to make them oily and tasty.
Coratella: diminutive of corata, it’s the offal of small animals, such as lamb, rabbit or chicken and, together with pajata, tripe, and coda alla vaccinara, it makes the quartet of poor Testaccio district cooking. The Roman version is made of lamb offal and artichokes. Its origin probably takes place in the XVI century when, according to some historical documents, Michelangelo was in Rome to paint the Sistine Chapel; he was hosted in a confessional and used to receive just a poor coratella dish served with onions, for lunch and dinner.
It is said that, a carpenter working with him couldn’t go through the artist bad breath for the whole day, so he paid the alternative dish served with artichokes out of his own pockets.
Trippa alla romana: sure the most famous dish made of tripe, it is stewed with tomato sauce, mint and grated Pecorino cheese. Also this one is part of the cow quinto quarto, usually eaten on Saturday’s lunch and you can still read “Tripe on Saturdays” on Roman trattorias menus.
Coda alla vaccinara: absolutely considered an international symbol of Roman peasants cooking, it also comes from pajata tradition, made of animals waste, given by slaughterhouse workers. To make them just pleasing, as it was a very strong flavoured meat, because of the sizeable quantity of blood, they were stewed, adding celery, sellero as Roman citizens say. After many attempts and experiments, the owner of the then Osteria dell’Omo restaurant followed the same procedure to cook the tail and the cheeks of the cow, making something destined to become famous: coda alla vaccinara.
Saltimbocca alla romana: origins are uncertain, but probably from the end of the 1800s, as mentioned by Pellegrino Artusi, who probably liked them in a restaurant in Rome. It is something similar to an open meat roll, so that simple beef or calf escalopes, with ham and sage, cooked with butter and simmered with white dry wine. It is so good, it directly jumps into your mouth by itself, as the Italian expression saltimbocca means.
Jewish artichokes: named by the district they come from, the Jewish ghetto, they take part of a second group of typical Roman dishes, after Testaccio’s. As a matter of fact, the Jewish cooking tradition, rich in dishes together with the poor Roman food melt, making a great mix of dishes. Here take origins the savoury fried dishes, so good they make your mouth water, such as zucchini flowers, fried and filled in with Mozzarella cheese and anchovies fillets. But the most famous and particular dish is Fried jewish artichokes, made as a pretty and very tasty flower. Jewish housewives were the first to use the typical Roman artichoke, named mammola, to celebrate the end of the Kippur fasting.
Abbacchio a scottadito: abbacchio is the Roman term used to define the young lamb that is also one of the very protagonists of Roman second courses.
From a Roman dialect dictionary, written in the XIX century you read: “abbacchio is the son of the sheep, still unweaned or just weaned; lamb is the son of the sheep almost one year old and already twice sheared”. Among the ways of cooking it, the scottadito version (scottadito means finger-burning) is the easiest and so the best representative of Roman cooking tradition. Usually cooked on Easter Sunday, the term scottadito perfectly describes this recipe: on the fire and eaten so hot it burns the fingers.
Unwillingly, we leave this list of taste pleasures incomplete, however we are conscious you will be able to directly conclude it in loco, giving proof of it by your own sensations.
Do you want to stay in Rome?
For this location we recommend Hotel Ariston, the ideal starting point to discover Rome!