By Nancy Sweet, director, LLCC culinary programs and operations
Rome is one of my favorite places. Every time I am there (this spring was my fourth visit) the history of it gives me goosebumps. Though many can be taken a little aback with the busy streets, flocks of tourists and street vendors peddling cheap wares, my sense of romance and adventure allows me to look past that.
The Coliseum, Roman Forum and the Pantheon are three of the absolute favorite things I’ve toured in my travels, and I never tire of seeing them each trip. However, when spending so much time in tourist-heavy areas, it can be easy to be sucked into one of the highly mediocre restaurants that line these areas. Servers are waiving you in with the allure of a menu in English, air conditioning or a perfect table right on the patio they have put up quickly just for you!
I encourage you to do a little homework and find some off the beaten path. Save them in your google Ulmon maps (an excellent offline map to download for touring) before leaving so you can easily find them when you are hot, tired and hungry after a day of sightseeing and ready to give up and eat the nearest edible thing.
A few I have enjoyed just steps away from the tourist traps included several by the eponymous Roscioli family including a café, a pizza place and a salumeria: Cul de Sac, a great wine bar for a leisurely lunch; Armando al Pantheon for an authentic Roman dinner; and Giolitti for gelato and pastries. If you find yourself touring the Vatican, Pizzarium is an absolute cannot-miss.
To get you started, below are a few recipes that are very traditional and you might find in authentic Roman restaurants.
Aperol is an Italian aperitif similar to Campari, but a lesser alcohol content of 11 percent and much less bitter.
Fill a wine glass with ice
Combine prosecco (or any sparkling wine) followed by Aperol in equal parts
Leave just enough room for a dash of soda water
Garnish with an orange slice
Pizza al Taglio
Pizza al Taglio, translated as cut pizza or pizza by the slice, is more similar to focaccia versus the traditional thin, wood-fired pizza often associated with Italy. This style is made in a rectangular pan with a crisp bottom and a light airy thicker dough. These pizzas, with various toppings from the simple tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella to more modern with perfectly seasonal ingredients such as potato, zucchini and rosemary, are found on almost every corner in Rome. Think of it as the original Roman street food. It’s often cut with scissors and you are charged by weight.
Serves about 4
Adapted from The Sugar Hit
2 ½ cups flour, all purpose or bread (about 375 grams)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
1 ½ cups water warm water (about 375 milliliters)
To make the dough, combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Combine on low until dough comes together, then increase speed to medium. Mix for about 2 minutes. The dough will be fairly wet and tacky. Cover bowl with plastic and leave in a warm spot for 30 minutes.
When the dough has almost finished rising, turn the oven on to preheat to 425 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Scrape the dough out onto the baking paper and, using wet hands, push and spread the dough out to fit into most of the area of the pan on top of the parchment.
Top the dough with the sauce and toppings of your choice. Bake for 15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
For toppings, the choice is yours! Tomato sauce with mozzarella and basil are the traditional Margarita toppings, whereas tomato sauce finished with strips of prosciutto and arugula after the pizza comes out of the oven are also very typical in Rome.
Cacio y Pepe
Cacio y Pepe translates as “cheese and pepper” and can be thought of as a Roman mac and cheese – spaghetti noodles with Pecorino Romano and black pepper. Sounds simple enough but it’s easy to turn this into a glommy, dry plate of noodles. The key is to properly emulsify your pan sauce while make the cheese nice and creamy to coat the pasta.
Adapted from Bon Appetit
8 ounces pasta such as spaghetti, tagliatelle, or bucatini
3 tablespoons butter, divided into tablespoons
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh cracked pepper, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Roman, plus more for serving
salt, to taste
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season with salt. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes from being perfectly tender. Drain, reserving ¾ cup pasta cooking water.
While pasta is cooking, melt 2 tablespoons butter with oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about one minute.
Add ½ cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Reduce heat to low and add Parmesan, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted and most pasta water absorbed. Remove pan from heat and add Pecorino, stirring and tossing until cheese melts and the sauce coats the pasta. (Add more pasta water if the sauce seems dry.) Taste and season with any salt if necessary. Serve in warmed pasta bowls and pass with remaining cheese and cracked pepper for garnishing.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.