An attempt to authenticate Italian dishes of any region leads one into a labyrinth of legends and disputes that twist and turn, sometimes crossing each others' paths. Italian history is rich and complex, and indeed there was no unified Italy until 1861. Italian history is filled with movement - the movement of conquerors, of religious history, of wandering tribes that brought their special dishes with them. In addition to the complex history of Roman cooking, many of the renowned Italian dishes come with legends attached, with disputes between regions over a recipe's origins. Somehow this makes the dishes more savory.
Since all roads lead to Rome, many dishes were brought from outside the city itself. We leave it up to the reader to choose sides in any food dispute, and enjoy a good food argument. And, while arguing, please remember to cook the italian way - use great ingredients, fresh ingredients and cook to your own taste.
Roman Pasta dishes
In the north of Italy fresh pasta reigns supreme, in the south dried pasta holds sway, but in Rome both fresh and dried are equal in popularity. The fresh pasta is often made at home, though there are small shops selling fresh pasta all over Rome. The terms casareccia or casalinga both mean homemade. Among the most popular of the pasta asciutta variety are rigatoni, bucatini (a thick, hollow spaghetti) and the more familiar spaghetti.
Bucatini all'amatriciana. This dish is made with bucatini. If you are in Amatrice, it is sauced with tomato, and guanciale, but if you are in Rome, garlic and onions will be added to the sauce. In both cities, it is sprinkled with lively pecorino cheese. The origin of the dish remains in dispute. Its name would indicate that it originated in Amatrice, however the Romans dispute that theory. The recipe is sometimes called bucatini alla matriciana without the initial letter 'a'. One speculation suggests that matriciana refers to a wild green called matricale, but no one uses greens in this sauce. Try this sugo both ways and make your personal favorite. This is often written simply as sugo amatriciana.
Pasta Cacio e Pepe. A simple dish, this is generally bucatini served with pecorino cheese and heaps of black pepper. A classic in Roman cooking, you can settle for nothing but the best cheese.
Penne all' Arrabbiata. Arrabbiata is translated as angry and the name derives, not from a flaw in the Roman disposition, but from the fiery red pepper flakes that are added to the dish.
Rigatoni alla Pagliata or Rigatoni with Pajata. This is rigatoni served with calf's intestine and dressed with tomato sauce, oil and garlic. It is a prime example of the cucina povera. Romans sent the finest cuts of meat to the Papal tables and were resigned to eat offal. The use of offal has diminished with time.
Spaghetti alIa Carbonara. This is a pasta dish which has a creamy sauce made of egg, cheese and guanciale (we substitute bacon but the hard to find guanciale is the authentic). It is a rich dish and its legends are equally rich. One theory holds that this is an Umbrian dish brought to Rome by the carbonari (coal-men). This may not be an old enough dish to support that theory, and some speculate that the freshly grated pepper sprinkled on the white dish resembles charcoal. Yet another theory is that the dish was invented to honor American soldiers in WWII who wanted bacon and eggs. A rich and romantic dish, whichever theory you ascribe to.
Gnocchi alla Romana. These are gnocchi made with semolina flour rather than the potato used in the northern gnocchi. In the family run Trattorias of Rome, you can sample some of the best gnocchi every Thursday night in a citywide tradition They are served with lakes of butter and a few tablespoons each of sauce and parmesan cheese. Served PIPING hot