Cacio e pepe, along with carbonara, amatriciana, and gricia, is one of the classics of Roman cuisine. As its name, which means cheese and pepper, suggests, it should also be very simple to make. However, its signature texture, often confused for cream, is often as elusive as the Holy Grail itself.
Fresh ravioli with tuna and hazelnut filling make a dinner-party dazzler or a comforting weekend meal.
There is something almost spiritual about making fresh pasta. Seeing the combined ingredients turn from disorder to order under your hands is an age old kitchen miracle, witnessed by generations before us. It puts you in touch with them. Respect for them pushes you to make the effort to knead the dough for that extra minute. The pride you feel on seeing that ball of dough, as smooth as marble, in front of you is the same pride they felt, connecting you through the ages.
Pasta in a box
In the last couple of years, particularly in Italy’s large tourist centres, a new phenomenon has appeared: fast food pasta restaurants. Typically, they serve a few types of fresh pasta which can be coupled with a sauce of your choice, served in a cardboard box Chinese take-away style. It can be eaten on or off premises and usually costs the price of a hamburger and fries.
Pasta with chicken? Mamma mia!
If you’re a fan of pages such as Italians Mad at Food, or if you google the ‘rules’ of Italian cooking, you will know that there’s only one thing worse than putting pineapple on pizza: eating pasta with chicken. That’s right. Any of you who have been cooking and eating pasta with chicken are risking the wrath of the people who brought you spaghetti and lasagne. You’d better stop it now.
The ingredient of the moment
The oddly named ‘nduja (pronounced an-DOO-ya) is a traditional Italian ingredient that has recently taken the world by storm. It’s a kind of salume from Calabria made from pork offal and roasted chile peppers. As a consequence it has a taste as fiery as its colour. For those that like their food spicy, it’s a must.
Castello di Santa Severa
The castle of Santa Severa, a few miles up the coast from Rome, looks like an enormous sandcastle left behind by a giant child for the sea to wash away. Its form is every child’s idea of what a castle should be. Huge round towers rise solidly from the beach and at high tide the water laps around their bases.