The Romance of Rome in a Simple Recipe
If you go to Rome and eat out in restaurants, you’re only getting a taste of Italian culture. For a full immersion, you’ve got to cook some traditional pasta yourself.
Spend a morning or afternoon hand-picking the best regional ingredients, grab a bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, then head back to your Italian cucina and cook like a local. I promise you’ll gain a new appreciation for traditional Roman cuisine and culture.
If you’re staying in a vacation rental, follow my guide and get out of your comfort zone. I’ll show you where to mingle with the locals, immerse yourself in an authentic slice of Italian culture, and live la bella vita.
Experience Rome like a local!
Check out the 10 best holiday rentals in Rome.
Authentic Italian Living Begins with Bucatini
Pecorino cheese and guanciale (cured pork made from pig cheek) are staples in Rome. Starting from these two intensely tasty ingredients, a number of delicious pasta recipes were born.
One of these is Bucatini all’ Amatriciana – the name refers to the mountain village of Amatrice, where the best guanciale comes from. It is one of the four classic pasta dishes of Rome; a rich and flavourful pasta dish made with tomato sauce, small crunchy guanciale bits, and plenty of grated Pecorino cheese.
Italian cooking isn’t complicated or fussy, but it does demand exceptionally good ingredients. Look for the DOP (food) and DOC (wine) labels to guarantee what you’re cooking with is a high-quality authentic product, not an imitation.
Guanciale (cured pork cheek or jowl)
Salted and cured until nearly dry but not smoked, guanciale has an intense pork flavor and keeps for months.
Pecorino (sheep’s milk cheese)
A hard, salty cheese that has been a staple of the Italian diet for over 2,000 years. Look for the DOP stamp for the highest quality.
Bucatini (dry pasta)
A thick spaghetti-like pasta made of hard durum wheat flour with a hole (buco) running through the center
Peperoncino (chili peppers)
Peperoncino is the generic Italian name for over 200 varieties of chili peppers. The small red ones are of moderate strength and are used to impart flavor and heat.
Where to Shop
Here are my picks for cream-of-the-crop food shops and markets in five vibrant Roman neighborhoods – so you can shop like a local.
Ghetto/Camp di Fiori
- Shop for guanciale at Antica Norcineria Viola, Campo die Fiori 43
- Shop for pecorino and bucatini at Roscioli, Via dei Giubbonari 21
- Shop for fresh produce (garlic, onion, tomatoes, peperoncino) at Mercata di Campo de’ Fiori, Campo de’ Fiori
Piazza di Spagna
- Shop for guanciale and Pecorino at Frateli Ciavatta, Via del Lavatore 31
- Shop for bucatini at Pastaficio Guerra, Via della Croce 8
- Shop for fresh produce at Carrefour Express, Via Vittoria 22
- Shop for guanciale at Franchi, Via Cola di Rionzo 200
- Shop for pecorino and bucatini at La Tradizione, Via Cipro 8
- Shop for fresh produce at Mercato Trionfale, Via la Goletta
Need helping planning your visit to the Vatican? Then check out this comprehensive guide.
- Shop for guanciale at Volpetti, Via Marmorata 47
- Shop for bucatini and pecorino at La Fromagerie, Piazza Testaccio
- Shop for fresh produce at Mercato di Testaccio, Piazza Testaccio
- Shop for guanciale at La Norcineria Iacozzilli, Via Natale del Grande 15
- Shop for bucatini at Ferrara, Via del Moro 3
- Shop for pecorino at Antica Caciara, Via San Francisco a Ripa 140
- Shop for fresh produce at Mercato Piazza San Cosimato, Piazza San Cosimato
Essential Kitchen Tools
Unless you’ve rented an apartment with a deluxe gourmet kitchen, the one you’ll be cooking in probably doesn’t have much more in the cupboards than a few plates, some cutlery, and a couple of coffee mugs. That’s why I’ve chosen a recipe for you that only requires a few essential kitchen tools.
Take a minute before you go grocery shopping to check that you have these basics on hand.
- Chef’s Knife
- Large Sauté Pan
- Large Pot
- Cheese Grater
Although not essential, a cutting board, measuring spoons, kitchen spoon, and pasta tongs will also come in handy.
Check too that you have salt, pepper, and olive oil in the pantry. If not, make sure to add these staples to your shopping list.
Explore more with my free self-guided walking tour of Rome for food lovers.
Bucatini all’ Amatriciana Recipe
A rich Italian pasta dish, loaded with vine-ripened Roma tomatoes, olive oil, pan-fried guanciale, and shavings of the sharpest Pecorino
Prep Time: 15 min
Cooking Time: 30 min
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 200g guanciale
- 2 small peperoncino
- 1 small onion, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4 ripe Roma tomatoes, peeled* and chopped
- 500g bucatini
- 100g freshly grated Pecorino cheese
- salt and pepper
Cut the guanciale into small chunks, about one-half inch thick. Place in a large sauté pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the chiles to the pan. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes, until all the fat has been rendered out and the guanciale is nice and crisp. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and their juices to the pan. Discard the chiles. Season with salt and pepper to taste and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Return the guanciale to the pan and keep warm.
Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil and add salt to taste. Add the bucatini and cook until al dente, about 9 to 12 minutes. Reserve 1 cup pasta water before draining well.
Add the bucatini to the pan with the sauce. Toss well to combine, and cook briefly over a gentle heat, just to meld the flavors. Remove from the heat, and stir in the pecorino. If the sauce seems too thick, add a bit of reserved pasta sauce.
*To peel fresh tomatoes cut a small shallow X in the bottom of each tomato, drop them into boiling water, then immediately remove them; the skins should slip right off.
How to Eat Long Pasta Like a Local
Eating long pasta is never glamorous but these tips can take the edge off.
- Pick up a few strands of spaghetti – 2, 3, 4 at the most – twist them on the side of the plate until you have the perfect size for a bite.
- Don’t stick your fork in the middle of the plate. You don’t want to lift an umbrella of spaghetti.
- Italians never use a spoon. A spoon is for people who don’t know how to eat spaghetti with a fork.
- Don’t cut your spaghetti with a fork. It is always one entity. You don’t want smaller pieces.
- For the same reason, don’t cut your spaghetti with a knife.
Visiting the Eternal City is so much more than the Sistine Chapel, the Pantheon, and Campo de’ Fiori’s exquisite warren of streets. It’s a gastronomic adventure where you can indulge in a classic Italian pastime: cooking and eating.
Your piping hot bowl of Bucatini all’ Amatriciana is just waiting to be made.
Experiencing Rome like a local also includes eating dinner out. Don’t miss my picks for the best pasta restaurants in Rome.
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