Roman pasta recipes are simple, born from the traditional cooking of peasants and shepherds from the countryside. They are easy to prepare, made to satisfy. Some ingenuity and need of nourishing and tasty food accompanied the creation of Roman pasta recipes still popular now.
The food ingredients more visible on which Roman cooking hinges,are naturally those produced in Rome’s region. They are also ordinary and cheap. Most widely used are guanciale and pecorino Romano.
Romans are people with simple but discriminating taste. They are neither fussy nor refined in their food. Pasta recipes can be be simple, even elementary. Romans like a dish to be satisfying, robust and nourishing, in its natural state as possible, yet taste is of the essence and Romans like abundance.
Take two classic examples: spaghetti cacio e pepe, where pasta is naked but for the simple easy adjustment with cheese for flavor and black coarse pepper to strike some sensation. The little water from the cooking of pasta serves to create the emulsion. It all ends in creating a creamy thick dense compound clinking to the pasta.
Or fettuccine Alfredo, nothing could be simpler. Many intrigued by the taste, tried to guess and re-create the dish with complicated formulas, never suspecting such simple ingredients.
Pasta shapes most popular in Roman pasta recipes are fettuccine and spaghetti for long pasta, later came tonnarelli, a square spaghetti shape. For short pasta, rigatoni are first choice.
When guanciale and pecorino are involved, the origins are easy to guess.
Shepherds wandering in the hills with their flock, still liked to break the monotony of their day with a pleasant pause. Pasta was always the preferred choice. What they had easy access to besides the cheese from their sheep’s milk, pecorino, was guanciale, full of rich luscious flavor.
Blended with the pasta, one could hardly think of anything more wholesome for energy and taste buds pleasure. That is how pasta alla gricia was born. From this humble dish, modifications followed.
It wasn’t difficult for pasta alla gricia to be taken a step further by adding eggs and so it became carbonara.
Then from America came tomatoes. There was some time of suspicion and not widespread access to them.
Tomatoes proved to be an ideal addition to pasta alla gricia and so bucatini all’amatriciana came to be.
Another Roman pasta recipe appeared when Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, future pope Pius XII, asked his cook to prepare something different from the usual pasta dishes, but, as a Roman himself, still in the line of Rome traditional cooking. A refined dish, fit for a pope, barely reminiscent of its rustic ancestor, pasta alla gricia, was born: fettuccine alla papalina.
Like everywhere, in the past, transportation of goods and merchandise relied on carts and their drivers. Roman cart drivers liked some comfort food along the road. Like the Sicilian’s they had their own version of spaghetti alla carrettiera.
Another typical Rome dish with a derogatory name is fettuccine alla burina, used in this case affectionately. The dish is without malice, certainly in good taste.
Probably the most recent roman pasta recipe, penne all’arrabbiata, (penne at the angry style) may have been born throwing together in a rush a minimum of ingredients for an improvised pasta recipe
Or it could be for the abundant hot cayenne pepper in the recipe
Another dish very popular in Rome, because is very quick and tasty, is spaghetti ajo ojo e peperoncino.
I should mention here some pasta dishes from Rome’s region as part of the roman tradition. The region is Lazio (Latium in Latin and so kept in English).
Fettuccine alla Ciociara, a dish from the province of Frosinone, south of Rome and in the north, pasta alle noci and in the sweet version maccheroni con le noci. Another typical Roman dish also sweet is rigatoni alla ricotta.
A typical Roman dish is gnocchi alla Romana made from semolina cooked in milk combined with cheese butter and yolk of eggs and baked to a golden crust.
There are other pasta dishes springing out every now and then. I choose to mention the typical well known traditional Roman pasta recipes.