If you want to know real Roman cuisine, start with pasta. I recently put together an iPhone app that will give you a nice primer on classics as Carbonara or Amatriciana and other classics. It tells you in what trattorie to eat them and where to buy fresh pasta. Plus you’ll learn about ‘al dente’, (forbidden) ingredients and pasta shapes.

In the Eternal City, hundreds of trattorias have been serving the same dishes since time immemorial and nobody ever seems to grow tired of them. But who would? Picture a steaming bowl of perfect al dente pasta glistening with a velvety tomato sauce, containing tiny bits of crispy pork and grated pecorino cheese. Hungry yet? And that’s only the Amatriciana! Wait until you hear about the others, like Carbonara, Gricia and Cacio e pepe.

With only a few ingredients, these pasta dishes are prodigies of the cucina povera (roughly translated as ‘poor’ or peasant cuisine). Unless they were part of the papal court or an aristocrat, Romans’ go-to fare was rustic and filling, characterized by quick and easy to make dishes, with seasonal and local ingredients. Romans still consume them at home or at one of the city’s many family-run trattorias, (generally) no-frills eateries with harsh lighting and simple tablecloths.

However, modest looks can be deceiving. It takes an experienced chef to get the pasta just right (which is al dente, with a bite), use the right ingredients for the sauce (no cream in the Carbonara!) and mix it all together to create a dish that is far greater than the sum of its ingredients.

This tour takes you to the trattorias where you’ll eat fine renditions of the classics. At each stop I’ll tell you something about the restaurant, but focus mainly on one single dish that they do really well. It tells you about the origins of that dish and the unbending rules of preparation. Plus tips on what to drink with them.

Get the pasta app here: http://rama.is/tours/Pasta_alla_Romana

Irene de Vette

Author Irene de Vette

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