Typical roman cooking mainly includes simple ingredients, as it was born in the people’s kitchens, the traditional ones. Let’s find out the most famous recipes and where to eat them!
When you walk in the streets of Rome, your eyes will be captured by the historical beauties surrounding you.
Every lane, monument and cobblestone (the so called “sanpietrini”, typical stones paving the streets of the city) will whisper to your ear tales from the past.
This, though, won’t be the only thing to capture your attention: you will be attracted by the aromas of the typical Roman cooking, and you will definitely want to taste them. And you must!
The main ingredients of the typical Roman cuisine are lamb and pork meat, and salted codfish, all of them flavoured with butter, sage, rosemary, mint and marjoram.
The most used legumes and vegetables are artichokes, “puntarelle” (a variant of chicory with a pleasantly bitter taste), peas, fava beans and chickpeas.
Finally, cheese: the unavoidable hard salty “pecorino” (sheep milk’s cheese) and the more delicate roman “ricotta” (soft white cheese).
In the typical Roman cuisine, there are no mannerisms: the ingredients are common and rustic and the cooking methods very simple.
Let’s discover the main traditional recipes which are a “must-taste” of the eternal city.
The recipe, which has become a symbol of the typical Roman cuisine, has been imported from Amatrice, a small city in the province of Rieti (Latium).
“Bucatini”,a kind of thick hollow spaghetti are indeed the most typical Roman pasta shape.
Their texture well holds the amatriciana sauce, made with cheek lard, pan-cooked in dry white wine, added with tomatoes and pecorino cheese.
Probably the most typical pasta-dish in Rome, proposed by almost all restaurant. Being a typical dish of the Roman tradition, all or almost the city's restaurants offer it, not always adequately.
Spaghetti are seasoned with a sauce made of eggs, cheek lard - not bacon! - pecorino cheese, salt and pepper.
This very simple course, however, has been creating many debates on one of its ingredients, the egg.
One version requires the entire egg, another one only the yolk; one recipe makes use of it thickened, a different school of thought suggests to use it raw.
According to the traditional recipe, in fact, raw egg is added at the end, directly on the still steaming pasta dish. In this way, the heat of the pasta will make the egg thicker, creating a delicious sauce.
Based on only three ingredients (spaghetti, cheese and pepper), it may sound like a very easy meal to cook.
But actually, if you are not very experienced in managing timing and seasoning, you risk to end up with a cheese conglomerate laying on a bunch of pasta.
A “poor” recipe, but, with the right amount of spice, it will turn out to be savoury and unforgettable.
This recipe, very simple and easy, is considered to be the starting point to the creation of the amatriciana recipe, with the sole addition of the tomato sauce.
The ingredients are rigatoni (a form of tube-shaped pasta) and a sauce made with cheek lard, oil and chili pepper, adding pecorino cheese at the end of the cooking.
This dish is obtained combining rigatoni pasta with the “pajata” sauce.
"Pajata" is the term for the intestines of an unweaned calf, cleaned and skinned, but the chyme is left inside.
It may sound horrible but, once cooked, it creates a sort of thick, creamy, cheese-like sauce.
Puntarelle, tender sprouts of Catalogna chicory, have a pleasantly bitter taste.
The leaves are plunged into iced water until they curl; then, they are flavoured with a sauce made of anchovies, oil, garlic and vinegar to create a savoury salad.
Artichoke is the crown-jewel of the roman products. In the typical Roman cuisine, it is usually prepared in two ways: “alla romana” (roman style) and “alla giudia” (literally “Jewish style”).
You can find roman-style artichokes in restaurants mainly during spring time.
They are cleaned from the hardest leaves, and plunged for a few minutes in water with lemon juice, to prevent them from oxidizing.
The central part is then removed and they are filled in with parsley, mint, garlic, salt and pepper. Finally, they are stewed in a large pot with water, white wine and oil.
Jewish-style artichokes are a typical recipe of the Jewish-Roman cuisine, symbol of Rome and its Ghetto.
They are flattened on a hard surface until their petals open, then they are fried.
The best artichoke variety for this specific recipe is the so-called “cimaroli”, as they are tender and without thorns, so once fried they can be eaten whole.
You cannot leave Rome without trying some lamb meat in any of the different preparations available.
The most typical (and appreciated) recipe is surely the roast lamb “a scottadito” (literally: “fingers-burning”): lamb ribs seasoned first with salt, pepper and herbs (such as thyme, tarragon and rosemary), then with lard or olive oil, finally grilled and served.
You must eat these ribs very hot, only using your fingers,no fork and knife( which explains the curious name).
This dish is prepared using veal meat wrapped in a slice of dry cured ham and sage.
It is pan-cooked with butter and white wine. The name literally means “ready to jump into your mouth”.
The preparations richest in proteins of the typical Roman cuisine usually include the use of offal, meaning animal parts such as tripe, pork feet, brain, heart, kidneys, tongue, pancreas and salivary glands-which is usually called the “fifth quarter” of an animal.
Ok, they may not sound tasty, but it actually is.
“Coda alla vaccinara” is one of the best-known recipes, consisting in with oxtail stew, celery, tomato, jowl bacon or lard and a mince of garlic, onion, celery, parsley and carrot.
Maybe the idea of eating tripe is not whetting your appetite, and you may think of skipping it, but, most probably, this is only because you haven’t tried the Roman-style tripe yet.
It is slow-cooked in tomato sauce with a mince of garlic, onion, carrot and celery, mixed with some white wine, salt and pepper.
After a first hour of cooking, mint leaves are added and, when ready, it is creamed with pecorino cheese.
This result is tender, smooth and buttery, and it will seem to you that you are actually tasting heaven instead of tripe!
Another typical element of Roman cuisine is baccalà, cod preserved in salt.
The recipe of fried cod fillet provides the preparation of a batter, with which cover the fish, and then fry it, making it tasty and crunchy.
After reading about all these treats, you may ask where to find them without risking of being disappointed.
Rome is full of traditional restaurants, but here's the list of those I trust :
In case you really want to try something different, to experience the real Rome city life and meet new people, I suggest you Aperitivo Social (Social Happy Hour), a group for people who don’t know each other and who want to make new friends.
Happy hours are organised along with events such as art exhibitions or food-tasting with chefs cooking on the spot.
These were my recommendations about typical Roman cuisine and where to taste it, and I am sure you won’t regret following my advice.