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Rome - Passionate about pasta

13th July 2012 • Posted in Where2 Magazine

Pasta is arguably the world’s favourite comfort food. While its origins are hotly disputed, the Italians have turned pasta making and cooking  into a fine art, and Rome is an ideal destination to sample some fine dishes.

A traditional first course in Italy, pasta comes in countless varieties and regional specialities – dishes designed to complement and enhance the character of the simple staple, often to mouth-watering effect and especially when the pasta is freshly made.

Rome Pasta

The many sizes and shapes range from dot to thread, string, ribbon, shell, butterfly, star, sheet, tube or twist. In addition to swirls of spaghetti, you’ll find agnolotti (round, stuffed pasta parcels), bucatini (a spaghetti-like pasta tube), capellini (lit. ‘thin hairs’!), cappelletti  (small ravioli), fettuccine (lit. ‘little ribbons’) and fettuce (wider ribbons than fettuccine), fusilli (long, thick corkscrewshaped pasta), gemelli (lit. ‘twins’, in fact a single strand twisted around itself), linguine (lit. ‘little tongues’ – flat, narrow strands), penne (short, ridged tubes), strozzapreti (lit. ‘priest choker’), tagliatelle (flat, similar to fettuccine

but narrower), tonnarelli (thick, squarish spaghetti), and our all-time favourite, pici, delectably plump, uneven Tuscan spaghetti.

There are many other versions but at least two features are common to all: a basic composition of durum wheat, salt and water, with or without egg; and an aura of home-made and ‘home-ly’ – irresistible!

Regional favourites

Each region of Italy has its favourites. Romans are particularly fond of fettuccine (elsewhere often called tagliatelli), bucatini and tonnarelli, as well as the universally loved spaghetti. But of course the proof of the pasta is in the eating – which means with a dressing or sauce. While some of these are nationally popular, from simple al burro (butter), aglio olio (garlic and oil), al sugo (with tomato sauce) or al ragù (a meat sauce), regional preferences are obvious in names such as pesto alla genovese or the ubiquitous bolognese.

In Rome the most popular sauces include all’amatriciana (with guanciale – bacon from the pig’s cheek, pecorino – ewe’s milk cheese, tomato, chilli peppers, black pepperand a splash of wine), alla carbonara (guanciale, parmesan, pecorino, garlic, eggs, black pepper), all’arrabbiata (guanciale, porcini mushrooms, tomato, parmesan, pecorino, garlic, basil, chillies) and alla coda vaccinara (a ragú made from oxtails). A highly popular, simple but no less delicious dish is spaghetti cacio e pepe – spaghetti with grated pecorino, salt and pepper. 

So, when in Rome, where should you go for outstanding pasta? Good restaurants in the city are far too numerous to list. One that’s had some notable recent reviews is Le Mani in Pasta (lit. ‘hands in the pasta’) in colourful Trastevere, where you may see the kitchen in action while you wait. Wherever you choose to go, buon appetito!

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