Sunday, January 12, 2014

Italian Food: What to Order While in Rome (with recipe!)

“After arriving on the ancestral soil I figured out pretty quickly why that [Italian] heritage swamps all competition. It's a culture that sweeps you in, sits you down in the kitchen, and feeds you so well you really don't want to leave.” Barbara Kingsolver

Italian food is very regional.  Every region, or better yet, every town has a specialty item or dish that you must try while you are there.  In my quest to learn more about the secrets of Italian food, before I travel anywhere, I research what are the must-have dishes of the place I'm visiting, so I make sure I order their specialties.

My children could not be more different and this fact transpires also in their favorite meals.  While one prefers pasta with tomato sauce (Pasta Pomodoro), the other one loves it with pesto.  Since I cannot make both sauces all the time, I make a batch of pesto sauce and freeze it in ice trays where an ice cube can be easily retrieved every time my youngest wants pasta pesto.

As soon as we set foot in #Rome, my oldest was enjoying his Pasta Pomodoro while my youngest  was flabbergasted to find that Pasta Pesto was never on the menu!  Why? Because basil pesto is a Ligurian specialty and not typical from the #Lazio region where Rome is located.  We had to convince him to be adventurous and try the Roman #specialties.  He eventually found new favorites that normally do not appear in the menus of #Italian #restaurants around the world.

Some of the popular pasta dishes from the Lazio region we've come to love are:

Pasta Cacio e Pepe:  Cacio means cheese and Pepe is pepper.  This dish has to be the original idea from which #MacAndCheese was born.  Every kid loves it and I love it too.  I really appreciate those three-ingredient dishes where if every ingredient is good and fresh, the dish becomes spectacular!  For those fussy eaters, it's a hit!

Pasta Alla #Amatriciana: It's a pasta with tomato sauce and guanciale which is a type of bacon that comes from the cheeks of the pig.  Don't dismiss it yet, try it! It tastes just like bacon.  The sauce is also made with pecorino cheese and white wine.

Pasta alla #Gricia:  A very old recipe invented by the Lazio shepherds with the only few ingredients they had at hand.  It is similar to the amatriciana but without tomatoes. 

Pasta alla #Carbonara: This is the most famous of the four outside of Italy.  It includes percorino cheese, eggs and the guanciale bacon.

1 pound (400 grams) of Spaghetti
160 grams of grated Pecorino Cheese
Pepper to taste

Boil #Spaghetti according to package instructions, additing a little bit of salt to the water (keep it "al dente" which means that you have to be able to bite into it).  Once they are ready drain them keeping some of the pasta water aside and put them back into the empty pot.  Add a couple of laddles full of the pasta water and the pecorino cheese.  Mix well in order to make a creamy sauce with the cheese and the pasta water.  Add freshly ground pepper.  And enjoy!!

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