The Sunday supplement: #39
All things Roman pasta: recipes, ingredients, stories, music, and tools
Rome is my favorite city in Europe. I’ve been fortunate to visit multiple times, and I’m on a kick lately trying to make its classic pastas at home – make them well enough to match my memories.
Gricia, amatriciana, carbonara, cacio e pepe. Alla zozzona, or maybe a light primavera, or something with zucchini and peas and mint. Basic ingredients: guanciale or pancetta, Pecorino cheese, chile, olive oil, black pepper, egg or tomato. Pasta shapes like bucatini, rigatoni, tonnarelli. It’s all very simple, very hard, extremely tasty and easy to fuck up.
At this point I’ve got gricia, amatriciana, zozzona, and carbonara pretty well gripped. For cacio e pepe, for whatever reason (ie, my incompetence), I’ve yet to reach the version I ate once in Testaccio, or even versions I’ve had in Los Angeles. (Hey, we have cacio e pepe pizza.) Many times, including the last time, two weeks ago, I wind up with gloppy-not-glossy. It’s all down to chemistry. Take your eye off for a second, it’s bucatini with curds.
For recipes, I used to default to my Phaidon Silver Spoon, “the bible of authentic Italian home cooking,” but these days, who am I kidding? I mean, do I own one of those cutting boards that has a slot for a phone to read recipes while I prep? Sure.
Here are some online takes I like. If you have some you love, please share.
J. Kenji López-Alt’s cacio e pepe
Sara Jenkins’s gricia
Anna Francese Gass’s zazzona for the NYTimes.
Almost any carbonara recipe will work. This Serious Eats Roman round-up is good, just make sure to incorporate all the oil from the guanciale/pancetta/bacon, be careful stirring in the egg/cheese if you’re adding it in a hot pan, go heavy on pepper, don’t be stingy using the starchy pasta water (in almost any pasta recipe) to get that creaminess. Also, I like to simmer the fried pork bits in white wine.
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