My Sophomore year of college I spent the spring semester studying at my school’s campus in Rome. One thing I learned very quickly is that real Italian food is nothing like what we think of as Italian food in America. I’m pretty sure everyone at my school that studied there came back an Italian food snob. (But when you have a bunch of Italian grandmothers running your cafeteria, what do you expect?) I still enjoy my fast food pizza or spaghetti and meatballs, but I can’t eat at Olive Garden anymore!
I was really excited to see a new cookbook available called Tasting Rome. Nowhere in the book is there a mention of spaghetti and meatballs, although there is a recipe for ‘Polpette di Bollito’ (deep-fried shredded beef meatballs made with beef shin). The book is full of recipes that I remember eating during my time there, as well as lots of insights on the Roman food culture. (Did you know it’s tradition in Rome to eat gnocchi on Thursdays? I didn’t, but I think I may need to bring that tradition to Texas!)
So if you’ve ever wanted to know how to make traditional wood-fired Roman pizza in your home oven, or how to cure your own guanciale, you’ll want to check this book out. It also has extensive chapters devoted to the Roman Jewish cuisine, cooking with offal, and vegetable dishes.
Even though there are less than 10 pasta recipes in the entire book, I decided to share one of them with you here, as Cacio e Pepe is a quintessentially Roman dish. It’s also one of the simplest pasta dishes you can make, with only three ingredients: spaghetti, Pecorino Romano (called Cacio by Romans, hence the name of the dish), and fresh cracked black pepper. These ingredients combine to make what I consider an ‘adult’ mac’n’cheese that is fabulous with a glass of wine!
Because of the basic ingredient list though, you really need to make sure you have good quality ingredients! Try to find Pecorino Romano that has been imported from Italy (they sell huge chunks of it at Costco) and make sure you freshly grind your pepper. Technique is also important- you really need to stir the sauce quickly and vigorously to get the cheese to melt and create a sauce. There’s no exact measurement for the water in this recipe, you just kinda have to add it until it looks right. You’ll know when it’s there though, the starch from the pasta will combine with the water and the cheese and make a creamy sauce that coats the pasta. I did end up adding quite a bit more water then I expected to though!
Traditionally in Rome this would be served as a first course, with a meat dish to follow. But feel free to eat it as a light meal with a salad instead- that’s what we did!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. This post may contain affiliate links. Thanks for reading!