The Cooking

The cuisine of the Lazio region is, for the most part, represented by that of Rome. All the specialities of the culinary traditions of the region are brought together in the Roman cuisine, which makes it a rich and tasty summary of a varied gastronomy which has received contributions from bordering areas and other communities. The first amongst these communities is that of the Jews, which has distant historical roots.
Roman cuisine is a cuisine which has managed to defend its own authenticity from the interference of fashions and tourism - better than as is the case in other areas of Lazio and other Italian regions; in Rome, in fact, the past is respected, and is kept alive – although, obviously, such a heritage has been enriched and personalised – perpetuating the purity and the tasty simplicity of the cuisine of working class extraction. This cuisine coincided, even during the centuries of greatest splendour, with that of the Popes and the aristocracy, for whom this cuisine represented a daily reality, whereas, for the common people, it was an aspiration which was only occasionally put into practice. So this gave birth to proverbs and sayings which are expressive of that connection between the cuisine of the different classes, so distant from one another.
«Chi se vo' impara' a magna', da li preti bisogna che va» (‘If you wanna learn to eat, you gotta go to the priests’) as the people of Rome would say, adding that «lo Spirito Santo nun abbotta (= non riempie la pancia)» (‘the Holy Spirit does not fill your belly’), knowing that «la panza e' fatta pe'li maccaroni, e le chiacchiere pe' li minchioni».(‘the belly is made for macaroni, and idle chatter for fools’).
Thus divided by class and by wealth, common people and nobility were forever joined by their undeniable liking for the ‘amatriciane’ (a pasta dish dressed with a pancetta and tomato sauce) which arrived in the capital from the region of Abruzzo, from the town of Amatrice, as the name itself indicates.
The confirmation of this interclass connection can be read between the lines of any menu in use in the principal places of Latian refreshment, where the prevalence of poor dishes is apparent, due to the fact that the aristocracy of the capital city did not export sumptuous recipes as was the case, above all during the Renaissance, of the other courts.
A notable element is the fate encountered in Rome by the giblets, the tails of cattle (‘la vaccinara’, made with ox-tail, is an especially well-known recipe), the hoofs and the cheeks of the butchered animals, everything which under the shadow of the ‘cupolone’ – the dome - (that is, in Rome) is called the ‘fifth quarter’ (‘quinto quarto’): it is the undeniable proof of the conscientiousness of the Latian butchers of the past in recuperating every edible part of the animals entrusted to them. They probably had no idea that ‘rigatoni con la pajata’ (rigatoni pasta dressed with sweetbreads) would conquer princes and Oscar-winning actors in the XX century.
Italian cinema – in fact – above all in the Fifties and Sixties, exported a very Roman picture of Italy (recalling the personages of actors like Manfredi, Sordi and Gassman) and in which the cuisine occupied considerable space. This was a cuisine in which ‘bucatini’ (large hollow spaghetti pasta) and ‘spaghetti alla carrettiera’ (spaghetti “cart-drivers’” style) triumphed; this last recipe being originally from Umbria was brought into Lazio by workers who travelled to the woods to make charcoal.
Roast lamb, king not only of the Easter meal, was born as a dish eaten by shepherds, that is to say, belonging to a certain peripheral social category. The flavours of Lazio belong, to cut a long story short, to the culture of the surrounding countryside: for the lamb and the cheeses, they are thankful to the shepherds from the region of Abruzzo, and for the oil and the wine, to the nearby Alban Hills and the modest Sabine slopes.
There are also specialities linked to the production of fruit and vegetables from the Latian countryside, where the vegetables are unique in their flavours and luxuriance, and where some areas have specialised in a particular product. Thus, the production from the Sabine area is exalted above all for its olive oil, as are the products of the area around Viterbo in particular for the cultivation of hazelnuts, and the contribution given by the grapes and the wines of the Castelli Romani and the agriculture of the Ciociara area. To these have been added, in the course of the century, the resources of the Pontine plains which have been recovered from a state of neglect and also from the scourge of malaria.
In the literature on the art of cookery, in the ‘Libro della cocina’ (‘Book of cookery’) by Anonimo Toscano, we can already find references to Roman cuisine, as, for example, the instructions for making a pasticcio romano (a Roman pie), called by the author "pastello": «Take some jointed chickens, spices and saffron and aromatic herbs: stir them together and fry them a little: then put in beaten eggs and a good quantity of verjuice; and in the meantime make the crust; then put the pie together, making two or three layers and put spices in each layer: place some lard on the top and cover the pie and make a hole in the middle of it: shape some birds out of the pastry, or other animals which you may like, to put on the top; and put on some lard, cook in the oven, and give for eating. A similar way may be used with fresh cheese and well beaten meat».
Thus, Maestro Martino, who lived and worked in Rome around the middle of the Fourteen Hundreds, includes in his ‘Libro de arte coquinaria’ (‘Book of culinary art’) a recipe which brings to mind the famous ‘saltimbocca’ (literally ‘jump in the mouth’) of old tradition.
«To make ‘coppiette’ (literally ‘little couples’) – which are small pieces of meat thus called because the two pieces should stick together – in the Roman way: cut the meat into pieces large like an egg, but do not finish the cutting, because these aforementioned pieces must remain attached to one another; and take a little salt and ‘pitartema’, that is, coriander seeds or crushed fennel, and cover the aforementioned pieces well, and afterwards put them a little to be pressed between two planks and roast them in a baking tin, putting in this tin a thin slice of lard between one piece and the other to keep the said ‘copiette’ (‘little couples’) more tender».
But the «Maccaroni romaneschi» should also not be overlooked; these, however, in reality, have nothing to do with the macaroni we know today, but rather reflect the taste of the time, above all in the use of butter and of sweet spices:
«Take some good quality flour and make into a paste with water and make the pasta a little thicker than that used for lasagne, and wrap it around a rod. And afterwards pull out the rod, and cut the pasta to the width of a little finger, and it will become like thin strips, or laces. And put them to cook in a meat broth, or in water, depending on the time. And it should boil when you put them in to cook. And if you cook them in water, put in some fresh butter and a little salt. And as they are cooked, put them carefully into plates with some good cheese, and with butter and sweet spices». The expression ‘depending on the time’ signifies depending on whether it is a ‘day of fat’ or ‘of lean’ (that is, with or without meat), since in the ‘days of lean’, not even broth made from meat was permitted. This is due to the fact that the Catholic Church (like all the religions) had, from time immemorial, placed limits and alimentary directions linked to traditions, climatic and hygienic realities which could influence the moral conduct of the people.
A similar recipe can be found in the work by Cristoforo Messisbugo, with the title «To make ten dishes of Roman macaroni» where the distinction is confirmed between ‘the days which are not for meat’ and those which are free from abstinence.
But vegetables cannot be missing from ancient Roman cuisine and so «Cavoli a la romanesca» (‘Roman style cabbage’)makes an appearance, this is cabbage cooked ‘a second time’ (‘rifatti’ -after having been boiled, sautéed in a frying pan) with lard and the meat broth to make this dish more nourishing.
The taste for wines which had their glory in the Renaissance was more refined (at the court of Pope Paul III), as Sante Lancerio indicates in his letter to the cardinal Guido Ascanio Sforza (nephew of Paul III). This is a text where the wines from the whole of Italy are taken into consideration – from Tuscany, Lazio, Campania, Calabria, Sicily, Corsica, Liguria and also from France and Spain – so much so, that this letter is considered to be a primary text to which Italian oenological literature must refer.
Further into the Renaissance, we come across the work of Bartolomeo Scappi. Of this it is of interest to point out that Scappi had the task of preparing a great meal in honour of Charles V, himself being in the service of the cardinal Lorenzo Campeggi, and, more especially, of preparing the banquet of celebration for the first anniversary of the pontificate of Pius V. So, once again, we find ourselves looking at working class dishes, as in the preparation of this dish «To make Roman style meat loaf from ox or beef loin». «Take the leanest part of the loin, without bones, skin and sinews, and cut crossways into pieces of about six ounces each in size, sprinkling with salt in grains and fennel flowers, or rather ‘pitartamo’, crushed with common spices, and putting in for each piece four pieces of streaky lard; and leave pressed down with the aforementioned mixture and a little rosé vinegar and ‘sapa’ (cooked (grape) must) for three hours, and then thread onto skewers with a slice of lard (bacon fat) between each piece, with sage leaves, or bay leaves, cooking with a moderate flame. When they are cooked, serve them just as they are, hot and with a sauce on top made from the liquid coming from them and mixed with the resulting mixture from when they were pressed; this sauce should have a little body and should give the colour of saffron. In this way it is possible to prepare the loins of meadow-grazing calves and of any other four-footed animal. Alternatively in the recipe «To make Roman style soup of squeezed cabbage» which also in the directions given by Scappi are ‘rifatti’ (‘cooked a second time’) with lard.
Likewise also the famous Francesco Leonardi (active in the second half of the Fifteen Hundreds), in his work ‘Apicio moderno’, as far as Roman cuisine is concerned, amongst the many delicacies he proposes, gives the recipe for «Beef-tripe Roman style» which, however elaborate a recipe it may be, still remains only tripe, an ingredient belonging to the cuisine of the poor. «When the beef-tripe is well washed and clean, cook it with water, salt, an onion with three cloves, a bunch of parsley with celery, carrot, two cloves of garlic, half a bay leaf; let it boil in a pot over a small flame for six or seven hours, so that it has made good froth; once its is cooked, cut it into squares, put it into a casserole dish with a piece of butter, salt and ground pepper, place over the flame, add a little ‘spagnuola’ (a type of sauce with a base of Port wine). Take a plate with a small edging of bread or pasta, make a layer of grated Parmesan cheese and a layer of tripe and continue in this way until the plate is sufficiently full, ending with a layer of grated Parmesan cheese in which you must mix a little finely chopped mint; place at the entrance of the oven or on top of the warm ash so that it takes on flavour and serve hot».
As follows is how the Milanese Giovan Felice Luraschi, in his work ‘Novo cuoco milanese economico’ (‘New economic Milanese cook’), amongst roasts, aspics, capons and various sauces, recalls, concerning Roman cuisine, the recipe for broccoli soup: «Blanche the broccoli flowers in salted water with a half a quart (a measure of weight corresponding to two hundred grams or seven ounces) of tender chicory cut into small pieces, allow them to reduce into a good ‘coulis’ (a kind of concentrated sauce), wet the bread, cut into cubes and sautéed in butter, with a good sauce and pour over the mixture».
Roman and Latian cuisine, therefore, going right back to the most ancient times, was of working class extraction, but rich in flavours which could also appear on the tables of the noblemen, and rich in the contributions of recipes coming from other areas.
The cuisine of the region of Lazio is, therefore, well represented by Roman cuisine itself, as this is a tasty summary of the culinary traditions of the region; it has been enriched by dishes of the bordering areas, or by those of the communities of distant countries, being part of the Urbe (i.e. of Rome). Rome acquired many dishes, types of food and customs coming from the countryside, and in particular from the ‘CIOCIARIA’, the area which corresponds roughly to the province of FROSINONE.
This is a part of the region of Lazio which takes its name, in common use, from a characteristic footwear of ancient origin: this was made from a rectangular piece of leather, larger than the sole of the foot, which was lifted up and around the edge of the foot by means of strings which passed through some holes positioned around the edges of the leather sole. These strings are then crossed-over each other, criss-crossing up the lower part of the leg which was wrapped in a piece of white cloth. This was the typical footwear of the farmers and shepherds, and its use extended from the ‘Ciociaria’ area to the confining territories of Abruzzo and Campania.
We recall, for example, the «provatura fritta». ‘Provatura’ is a type of mozzarella: the name derives from ‘prova’ (try), that is, the tasting of the cheese carried out by the cheese-makers to check on its texture. The "campione di fusa" (sample piece) roughly corresponds, in quantity, to the size of a mozzarella. So this dish is nothing more than fried mozzarella; this is often present in Roman antipasti (hors d’oeuvres) together with omelettes with ricotta, flavoured with aromatic herbs, in particular, with mint. The ‘burina’ omelette is curious: it is made with the hearts of lettuce, mixed with eggs together with small pieces of cheese. The name ‘burina’ makes one suppose that it is originally from the Romagna region because this was the name given by the Romans to the countryfolk from Romagna who, up until the end of the Eighteen Hundreds, worked the land in the Roman plain; today the term is used a lot as a synonym for unrefined or boorish.
Another typical recipe of this zone is for omelette with garlic; this can only be made in the Spring because the garlic used must be the freshest possible. Mention should also be made of ‘pancotto’, which is a soup made with stale bread, a dish appearing in many variations in all of the country cuisine of the central-southern area of our country. The Latian variation is amongst the most simple but is not, for this, any less tasty.
The Ciociaria area is the origin of another ‘poor’ soup: the bean and onion soup the ingredients of which are equal measures of beans and onions, and a little pancetta (Italian spiced bacon) – salt and pepper and, before serving, a thread of oil
Since, in the countryside of the Ciociaria the practice of rearing of sheep is widely diffused, it is worth also remembering all the dishes based on the use of lamb. We are not referring so much to «abbacchio scottadito» - ‘burnt-finger style lamb’(ribs and pieces of lamb cooked on the bone which the Romans used to eat using their hands, and, in fact, burning their fingers), as much as to the poorer dishes like lamb offal, sweetbreads with ham, la pajata made with parts of the interiors, all dishes which use the recuperated parts of the animals.
In Rome and in the Lazio region, the word ‘abbacchio’ is used for lamb (usually ‘agnello’); this is because, at one time, this was the term used for the lamb aged between twenty days and one month: today the denomination is rather more elastic and the ‘abbacchio’ may be a lot older and a lot larger in size.
Lamb in this region is cooked in many different ways; the ‘agnello brodettato’ is a particular recipe, in which it is cooked in the saucepan with cured ham, aromatic herbs and white wine and is enriched by a sauce made from egg yolks, parsley, marjoram and lemon juice; the recipe for lamb ‘alla cacciatora’ (hunter’s style) includes anchovies but not tomatoes.
The recipes for vegetables are dominated by artichokes and various types of salad greens. Artichokes are cooked with peas and ham or with mint, whereas artichokes ‘giudia’ style, being part of Jewish cuisine, belong also to the typical cuisine of the capital city.

The sweets are dominated by ricotta cheese: for example the ‘budino alla ricotta’ (a kind of blancmange pudding made with ricotta) is truly excellent: flavoured with lemon, cinnamon, rum, candied orange and lime peel, and also the ‘crostata di ricotta’ (ricotta tart) which also contains cinnamon and candied fruit.
Another cuisine which can be individuated in that of Lazio is the one which has developed in the territory of VITERBO, a notable agricultural and commercial centre with a few alimentary industries. Here, the cultivation is principally of olives, wheat and grape vines which give highly-valued products such as the well known wine from Montefiascone, the Gradoli and the Vignanello wines, just to mention a few.
And from the Lake of Bolsena, which takes its name from the ancient Etruscan city of the same name, the famous «anguille alla bisentina» (‘eels Bisentina style’); the name of this dish derives from the Bisentina, the little island which rises in the middle of the Lake and where, in fact, an excellent quality of eels can be caught. These eels haven given life to a famous proverb «Vino de
Montefiascone e anguilla de Bolsena, nun c'e' mejo cena» (‘Wine from Montefiascone and eels from Bolsena, there is no better dinner). In this dish, the eels are floured and fried and are then dressed with a good quality of white wine vinegar, plenty of pepper and bay leaves.
Amongst the other dishes which come from this zone, we bring to mind the ancient «pizzacce», fritters made with egg, flour and milk, and which are then covered with grated pecorino (sheep’s) cheese and sprinkled with sugar flavoured with cinnamon; they are served rolled up and arranged on a serving plate.
There is also the «zuppa casereccia» (‘home-made style soup’), a countryside soup cooked with the beans grown in the area, the so called "quarantini" (‘forties’) because they take about forty days to ripen, but it is also possible to use cannellini or other types of bean, providing that they are small and tender. To the beans are added celery, lettuce, garlic and tomato. The soup is served with toasted, home-made style bread. There is yet another bean soup which originates from ancient monasteries and is called «imbracata» (‘strapped up’), because it is enriched with tagliatelle and pork rind; it is a substantial dish from which, it appears, derives the proverb «chi se vo' impara' a magna', da li preti bisogna che va'» (‘If you wanna learn to eat, you gotta go to the priests’).
The «fettuccine alla burina» (‘fettuccine –ribbon-shaped pasta - ‘burina’ style’) are typical of the area around Viterbo and are dressed with peas, dried mushrooms, cooked ham and cream. And lastly, we remember the «olives of Montefiascone» flavoured with a sauce made from lemon juice, orange and lemon rind, thyme and oil; they are served as an aperitif together with a good white wine from the area.
A contribution to the gastronomy of the Lazio region which can be individuated is that offered by the cuisine of the province of RIETI. This area is influenced by its vicinity to the Abruzzo region, a land which has supplied dishes and various other influences. We bring to mind the «stracci di Antrodoco», a town formerly belonging to the province around Aquila. These are fritters made with eggs, milk and flour, filled with meat sauce, sprinkled with grated cheese, covered with yet more meat sauce and then gratinated in the oven.
From the town Amatrice, in the area around Rieti, two typical dishes are particularly well known: «spaghetti or bucatini all'amatriciana», and the famous ‘mortadella’: a raw salami made from pork meat which is minced up several times so that a smooth-textured paste is obtained. This is different to traditional mortadella since it is not distributed with pieces of lard, but has only one, fairly large piece of lard which runs down its centre. Apart from the usual way of eating it – mortadella with bread – the local custom is to eat it with artichokes preserved in oil, which is another local speciality.
Latian cuisine includes a few (not many) typical fish-dishes which originate from the southern Tyrrhenian coast, at the opening of a large gulf where the sea is teeming with fish. Inland can be found the towns of Terracina, Gaeta and Formia and, opposite the gulf, the group of Ponzian islands. The town which lends its name to the gulf is GAETA, the ancient Caieta, which in the Virgilian legend was thus named after Aeneas’s wet nurse.
It is a sea which is rich with crustaceans, of which we refer to "le mazzancolle" which, in the Latian dialect, is used to indicate king prawns which are fished for in the summer. The typical way of cooking them is by deep frying them after having removed their shells, and by then cooking them further in a saucepan with white wine and lemon.
And so also the «sogliole gratinate» (gratinated sole); the fish is cut into fillets and left to marinate in a bowl with oil, lemon juice and finely chopped garlic for a few hours. The fillets are then cooked on a boiling hot gridiron and served accompanied by a mixed salad.
Mention should also be made of the stuffed squids, and also of the lobsters which are used for making an excellent pasta sauce, to be served, preferably, with ‘penne’ (pasta quills). The slightly more modest dish of «zuppa di vongole» (clam soup) alla marinara is also excellent, and is served poured on top of slices of stale bread.
The cuisine of the MAREMMA LAZIALE (the Latian part of the Maremma area) is influenced by the Tuscan part of Maremma which is more linked to the inland than to the sea. In this land, rich with wild boar, Maremma can boast various recipes for cooking the different parts of this animal. In particular, we would like to point out the «coscio in agrodolce» (‘sweet and sour leg of wild boar’), which is a very refined Renaissance recipe which requires a connoisseur’s palate; the ingredients give an idea of the complexity of this dish: apart from the leg of the wild boar, in fact, the following ingredients are required: onion, carrot, garlic, celery, bay leaves, thyme, red wine, vinegar, white wine, sultanas, pine-nuts, candied lime, bitter chocolate, sugar, oil, salt and pepper.
Not everyone may appreciate this dish, which is becoming forever more difficult to come across, being taken over by the oven-roasted version – when the boar is young – where the leg is larded together with a mixture of pepper and rosemary and a few bay leaves.
The poor cuisine of this territory which in the past experienced great poverty, can still today offer tasty soups which, viewed all together, do not present many differences between themselves: all of them, in fact, make use of stale bread with which the «pancotto» (‘cooked bread’)or «acqua cotta» (‘cooked water’) is made – this may also be enriched with fresh eggs. Or other soups using vegetables, in which the area is particularly rich. We remember the supplies yielded by the forests, which are filled with various qualities of mushrooms which are cooked in a variety of ways, wild asparagus which can be eaten boiled or cooked in omelettes, just as the meadows and fields supply excellent wild salad greens which can be used to enrich the famous ‘misticanza’ (mixed salad).
And lastly, some dishes originate from the nearby UMBRIA region which have historically entered into the cuisine of Lazio. The first amongst these is the «spaghetti alla carbonara», imported into Lazio by the ‘carbonari’, the men who, until the first decades of the Nineteen Hundreds, worked in the forests of this region making charcoal from the wood. This is a rich dish which has a dressing made from streaky bacon (from the pig’s cheek) cut into little cubes and cooked in a frying pan with oil and garlic; then a creamy mixture of eggs, Parmesan cheese and pepper is prepared and the spaghetti, cooked al dente are added to it and mixed up well, with the addition of more Parmesan cheese and the streaky bacon mixture.
But another recipe has also passed into the tradition of Roman cuisine, this time originating in Norcia - «spaghetti alla gricia», dressed with a mixture of streaky bacon and chilli pepper and covered with plenty of grated pecorino (sheep’s) cheese.
The true ROMAN cuisine boasts a series of dishes which can be found on the menus of many of the trattorie in the capital city, the first amongst which can be found in the Trastevere quarter, an area frequented both by the Romans and by tourists. We name a few of the most typical and widely diffused: the «pomodori interi ripieni» (whole, stuffed tomatoes) which are tomatoes stuffed with raw rice flavoured in the juice of the tomatoes and finely chopped mint leaves, basil, garlic and anchovies and then cooked in the oven for at least an hour. Mozzarella cheese is used in many ways, from «pan dorato» (‘golden bread’) to the filling of stuffed courgette flowers; but ricotta cheese is also present in many recipes: as well as in ravioli, it is used as part of pasta sauces and is also part of the ingredients for making many of the desserts. Semolina is used for making «gnocchi alla romana» (Roman style gnocchi), dressed with butter and Parmesan cheese and baked in the oven; and to remain still on the subject of first courses, the «spaghetti alla carrettiera» are also well known. The dish is so-called because it was once the favourite dish of the wagon drivers who brought the wine of the Castelli region to Rome: this is a dish of spaghetti dressed with a sauce made from dried mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, parsley and tuna fish.
The «lumache alla romana» (snails Roman style), also known as San Giovanni (Saint John) style since they are prepared by the Roman restaurants on the night of San Giovanni, between the 23rd and the 24th June. This is a night of great celebrations in the oldest quarters of the city. After having purged the snails well, they are removed from their shells and boiled; they are then put into a saucepan containing a tomato sauce prepared previously with a mixture of finely chopped garlic, anchovies and chilli and cooked with a small bunch of mint. The snails must cook in this sauce for at least one hour.
Amongst the meat dishes, the ones which stand out the most are the «coda alla vaccinara» (ox-tail vaccinara style), the «saltimbocca alla romana» (literally ‘jump in the mouth’ Roman style), the «stufatino alla romana» (Roman style stew); these are all dishes which include the use of wine in their preparation, and this has given origin to various proverbs in dialect such: «Anni e bicchieri de vino, nun se conteno mai» (‘Years and glasses of wine should never be counted’) or «Chi magna senza beve, ammura a secco».(literally: ‘he who eats without drinking, builds a dry wall’).
A particular dish is also the «garofolato di manzo» (‘garofolato of beef’), the sauce of which, called garofolato due to the aroma of the cloves (cloves are chiodi di garofano), is served with pasta or is used in the preparation of «trippa alla trasteverina».(tripe Trastevere style). The garofolato is a dish of roast beef topside which is pierced with small pieces of lard, plenty of cloves and slices of garlic and cooked in an earthenware dish over a low heat for a couple of hours with onion, oil and butter, slices of celery and tomato.
The tripe recipe is prepared by cooking the tripe in the oven along with the sauce from the garofolato and grated pecorino (sheep’s) cheese, with a mixture of finely chopped mint, an aromatic herb used a lot in Roman cuisine and indispensable where tripe is concerned, as the proverb says: «A la trippa la menta, ar pisello er prosciutto; e su tutt'e dua mettece un gotto» (‘For tripe use mint, for peas use ham; and with them both down a swig’ of wine).
Other than tripe, dishes making use of the poorer parts of the animal are two recipes of ancient working-class origin which can still be found in the Roman taverns: the dish «milza in umido» (stewed spleen) which is flavoured with sage, garlic, vinegar, anchovies and pepper, and the dish «rognone al pomodoro» (kidneys with tomatoes), where the kidneys are cooked with a sauce made from onions, tomatoes, parsley, white wine and pepper.
A particularly tasty dish is that of «pollo alla romana» (chicken Roman style) in which the chicken is browned in a mixture of small cubes of ham, garlic and finely chopped marjoram sautéed in butter, and is then splashed with white wine and cooked with tomatoes and sweet peppers.
Amongst the salads, the dish which stands out is that of the «puntarelle all'acciuga» (tips of chicory leaves with anchovies), which is served as an accompaniment to roast meat or fish.
In the field of side-dishes, we would like to bring to notice the artichokes which are prepared in a variety of ways: the most famous are of Jewish origin: «carciofi alla giudea» (artichokes giudea style), widely diffused in the cuisine of the ghetto from which the Romans have exported them; they are well-cleaned artichokes which are then deep fried whole in plenty of oil; but artichokes are also cooked with mint, «carciofi alla romana» (artichokes Roman style), or with peas which are a vegetable which also accompanies many dishes, being cooked with cured ham and onion.
And finally, chick-peas (naturally, beans are also present, but these are not necessarily typical since they can be found in all of Italian cuisine). Chick-peas strictly require the presence of rosemary, whether they are served with «pasta e ceci» (a chickpea soup with containing small pasta shapes), or as a side dish.
The variety of sauces also deserve a mention; particularly the «salsa alle erbe» (herbal sauce) and the «salsa alla Vestale» (Vestal sauce). The first is very aromatic and is able to give a boost to the flavour of all the dishes with a base of roast meat, but is superb above all when it accompanies pork and wild boar. Here are the instructions for its preparation: «sauté in fifty grams (one and a half ounces) of butter, seventy grams (two ounces) of fairly fat ham, cut into small cubes, and two onions and a carrot, both finely chopped: when the fat of the ham has melted, add a small bunch of finely-chopped parsley, three cloves of garlic, two bay-leaves and a little finely-chopped basil. Cook for a few minutes and wet with a glass of vinegar which will then evaporate over a high heat. Add a little veal marrow and a pinch of finely chopped red chilli pepper and cook for about ten minutes. Remove the fat which has formed and pass all of the mixture through a sieve, or purée it. Add salt and mix well.
The «salsa alla Vestale» has very ancient origins which go back to ancient Rome, coming from a holy environment: the Vestals were the virgins who were in charge of the worship of the goddess Vesta and were the custodians of the sacred fire of the city. The sauce is composed of veal, ham, onion, chicken, sweet almonds, egg yolk, fresh white breadcrumbs, coriander, broth, cream and butter.
This was a sauce which – like all the sauces from the ancient world – was born to cover the bad odours of the food which was preserved with great difficulty. Today it is a valued accompaniment for dishes of chicken, pigeon and roast beef.
Amongst the desserts, of which there are not many, other than the various sweet flat breads and pizzas, we bring to your attention the «budino di ricotta» (ricotta blancmange), the «fragole in aceto» (strawberries in vinegar), the «fave alla romana» (broad beans Roman style), a dessert which is typical of the ‘giorno dei morti’ (the day for the remembrance of the dead), which goes back so far in time as to be cited in the most ancient texts.
It is also possible to find ‘i tozzetti’, and ‘i mostaccioli’, which are old types of biscuits with a base of flour, sugar, dried figs, candied fruit and raisins; they are of ancient origin and the name derives from the Latin mustaceum which means «focaccia di notte» (flatbread of the night), derived from the word ‘mostum’, mosto (grape must), because prepared with flour mixed with grape must.
So, although – as we have said – Roman and Latian cuisine lacks the affectations which, elsewhere, were inherited from the Renaissance courts (of which one of the few inheritances is the ‘pasticcio di maccheroni’ (macaroni pie) said to be of the Pope Boniface VIII), although its origin is from country folk and the working class, we cannot, however, really define it as being poor: this gastronomy is rich and various, thanks also to the influences experienced due to the fact that Rome is a melting pot of people belonging to various cultures, it is, in fact, the fruit of the various contributions and often the embellishments of different, persistent traditions.