ITINERARIES, GASTRONOMY AND TRADITION: ROME, PART TWO
Our journey through Rome's typical dishes doesn't stop. As usual, we will talk about the city and its culinary tradition
ROME TRADITION AND GASTRONOMY
- Roma is a Vespasian
- Popular Rome
- Ms. Rome
- Proverbial Rome
- Fascist Rome
- A Corrupt Rome
- Mamma Roma
TYPICAL ROMAN DISHES
We are in Rome, and our journey continues among typical dishes and quotes of the great men (and also the little ones) who knew and loved the Eternal City
“Before me, there were no created things,
Only eterne, and I eternal last.”
“Roma is a Vespasian”
“In Rome happened the exact opposite of what happens in other capitals: the city has become bigger and rich, but it is still tied to an idea of simple and ordinary life. Cynical, skeptical, without principles, material, dull Rome presenting the disconcerting show of a capital whose primary goal, or rather the only one, is to live for today or better to survive.” Alberto Moravia
“No city in the world can count on a better adventure. It has such a great history to make look so small even the huge crimes covering it. Maybe one of the biggest problems in Italy is this: having as a capital a city that, for name and past, is not proportionate to the modesty of a people that when screams: “Forza Roma!” (“Go, Rome!” TN), only hints at the soccer team.” Indro Montanelli
“Rome is an international city, genuinely Catholic. In Rome, you won’t find gossip. It has the so-called savoir-faire and better to leave out the tolerance for the opinion of others, the way to adapt to the attitudes of the others, indeed the philosophical indifference, indeed the skepticism of those who traveled a lot and know a lot of the world. Not because the Romans actually traveled: most did not cross the Alban hills, but because Rome was visited from all over the world, which is the same”. Carlo Dossi
“Rome at night. Dead city. Silent city. City in which the only cry that the facades and walls allow us, always the same with small variations, is Duce: the face, in front and in profile, cap with aigrette or helmet, lovable or terrible. The blind, deaf city, with the cut tongue, expresses itself only through the lyrical grimaces of Mussolini”. Jean Cocteau
“With its placental belly and its maternal appearance, it avoids neurosis but also prevents development, a real maturation. It is a city of listless, skeptical and rude children: even a little deformed, psychically, since preventing growth is unnatural. This is also why in Rome, there is such an attachment to the family. I have never seen a city in the world where people talk so much about their relatives. “Let me introduce you, my brother-in-law. Here is Lallo, my cousin’s son”. It is a chain: you live among well-defined and well-known people, for a simple biological fact. They live like broods… And Rome remains the ideal mother, the mother who does not force you to behave well. Even the very common phrase: “But who are you? You are nobody!” it’s comforting. Because there is not only contempt but also a liberating charge. You are nobody, so you can also be everything. Everything can still be done. You can start from zero. Insulted like no other city, Rome does not react. The Roman says: “Rome ain’t mine.” This cancellation of the reality done by the Roman, when they say “why do you care?!”, perhaps arises from the fact that they have to fear something either from the pope or from the gendarmerie or from the nobles. They lock themselves in a gastro-sexual circle”. Federico Fellini
“Rome must have been a fine city in the of Caesar. (…) The Forum must have been a magnificent square. (…) I wish I knew something of Latin or Roman History. But it’s not worth while beginning now. So let the ruins rot”. James Joyce
TYPICAL ROMAN DISHES
Born in the Regola neighborhood, right in the center of Rome where Palazzo Farnese is located. In the past, among buildings, churches, hospitals, prisons etc., in the neighborhood lived the Slaughtermen (vaccinari), who skinned the animal carcasses and were paid with quinto quarto (literally fifth quarter) of the it, that is what remained after having sold the more desirable parts to rich people, the offal. That’s the reason why the vaccinari’s wives strove to draw from those scraps of delicious dishes. Coda alla vaccinara and the pajata share the same origin. This is the cow’s tail, which today is prepared in 2 different ways, both offered in Roman restaurants.
Wash the oxtail and remove the blood. Cut it into “rocchi” and let it brown with lard, or guanciale, and oil. When it is browned, add chopped onion with 2 garlic cloves, cloves, salt, and pepper. Add white wine, cover, and cook the tail for 15 minutes. At this point add the chopped plum tomato, cook for about an hour, then add hot water to the sauce until it covers the tail, cover and cook for about 3 hours. Immediately afterward cook and brown the celery with pine nuts, raisins, and bitter cocoa. Add this sauce to the other with the tail, to which someone also adds the gaffi that is the cheeks of the bovine. In some recipes, you may find cinnamon or nutmeg. The tail is also served with rigatoni and grated pecorino cheese.
The tradition of the abbacchio is lost in the origins of the Roman Empire. Varro and Columella were already talking about this, writing about pastoral activity among the ancient Romans. In 300 AD, a part of the Forum was called Campo Vaccino, a large market of abbacchi, lambs and sheep.
The term abbacchio means the lamb that has not yet been weaned. And it is one of the most famous dishes of Roman culture, typical of Easter days. It can be baked, lamb chops and lamb alla cacciatora. In that period, the abbacchio was considered a poor dish, and like most of the poor dishes, they became tempting among rich people as well. The etymology of the name is particular, even if the theories are various. It is thought to derive from abecula or avecula, which comes from ovacula and the Latin ovis, meaning sheep. The other theory is ad baculum, that is “near the stick.” The term refers to the custom of keeping the lamb tied to the stick so that the mother would remain nearby.
The preparation is very simple, just oil and rosemary. The chops are grilled, while many prefer to cook it in the oven.
Ok, you may have it clear that the Romans are fond of entrails. This is because the Roman cuisine is popular and therefore poor. Tripe and fettuccine with chicken giblets are part of this culinary trend.
Tripe is always part of the fifth quarter of the cow and is made with its 3 forestomachs. Contrary to what one might believe, tripe contains only 4% fat, and 17% is composed of protein. Paradoxically, therefore, the tripe was one of the finest dishes available to the poor. And from here the so-called Sabato Trippa (Tripe on Saturday) was born, which can still be read today in the trattorie.
For the preparation, we are going to follow an icon of the Roman world, the famous Sora Lella, actress, sister of Aldo Fabrizi and owner of the homonymous trattoria on the Tiber Island.
Fettuccine with chicken giblets, on the other hand, is a rich first course, always made up of chicken giblets. All the entrails of the chicken are used, as well as – sometimes – dents and testicles. They are usually eaten with fettuccine, tagliatelle made with egg pasta. The sauce is made with a mixture of oil, butter, and marjoram, to which the chopped giblets and the tomato are added. The cooking time is long, at least between 40-50 minutes.
The coratella are nothing but – even here – offal. These are the heart, liver, and lungs, to which the spleen, sweetbreads, and kidneys are added today.
The preparation: tomato, onion, chili, parsley, garlic, celery, carrots, sage, rosemary, extra virgin olive oil, salt.
Finally, a little lighter dish with vegetables and fish. Broccoli and arzilla Soup is made from Roman cauliflower and skate (called arzilla in Roman dialect).
The wings of the skate are cooked in broth, so that the cartilaginous parts melt, to become a sauce thicker than usual, to which are added onions, celery and a clove of garlic. Broccoli, on the other hand, is cooked with a flavor base made of garlic, anchovy, chili pepper, and tomato, blended with a glass of wine. Then combine the skate with the sauce, cook the pasta or, if you prefer, eat the broth with toasted bread.
The vignarola is an ancient spring and peasant recipe, based on simplicity. The origin of the name refers to the “vignarolo,” that is the greengrocer, perhaps coming from the area of Velletri, famous for its vineyards. It was typical of the area to plant peas and broad beans along the rows and vines. These, together with the last seasonal artichokes, form the heart of the vignarola, to which fresh onions, lettuce, and guanciale are added. Taste this dish with pasta or with the bread.
Maritozzo with the cream
We are finally there: dessert time. Il maritozzo is a sweet bun kneaded with flour, eggs, honey, and butter. In the Middle Ages, it was the only sweet accepted in the period of Lent. Over time, these buns (which in the North gave birth to Pandoro and Panettone) became smaller and were enriched with candied fruit and raisins. The name derives from the deformation of the Italian word “marito” (meaning husband), and it was a gift that the boyfriend used to give to his bride on Friday in March, corresponding to the current Valentine’s Day. Today, the cream is added to the maritozzo.
In ancient Rome, March 19 (Saint Joseph’s day), it corresponded to the eve of the Spring equinox, when the Dionysian rites of propitiation and fertility took place.
The feast of San Giuseppe, on the other hand, was characterized by great celebrations in the Church of San Giuseppe dei Falegnami, where banquets based on frittelle and bignè were prepared.
San Giuseppe Bignè is a fried (or baked) cream puff filled with crema pasticcera (pastry cream).
This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)