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4.4.2021 Dinner in Rome




The Menu


Stracciatella alla Romana


Literally translated to “little rags,” Stracciatella alla Romana is an Italian egg drop soup that is traditionally served as a starter for a large Easter lunch. We start with a rich chicken bone broth before stirring in eggs, nutmeg, lemon zest, and Grana Padano cheese. The result is a lucious, umami filled soup that forms part of the Roman tradition of “cucina povera” (poor cooking). Allegedly in 1962 Enrico Panattoni, a restauranteur from the Northern Italian town of Bergamo, grew so frustrated at making this soup for Roman tourists that he decided to employ the same techniques with gelato and chocolate, creating the first ever stracciatella gelato. Contains eggs, dairy; gluten free.


Bucatini all’Amatriciana


For a dish traditionally made with just 3 ingredients (tomatoes, guanciale, and pecorino), there sure is A LOT of agita regarding its history and preparation. The origins of this recipe date back to pre-Colombian times (i.e. pre tomatoes in Italy) when shepherds in Italy’s Lazio region made gricia, a guanciale (cured pork jowl), pepper, and pecorino pasta (nowadays it’s generally referred to as Amatriciana bianca). The story goes that the tomato-based sauce was first created in the small town of Amatrice, which is about an hour outside of Rome, sometime around the late 17th century, but took off in popularity and made its way to Rome during the Napoleonic Wars. This classic piatto popolare (proletarian fare) is now served at almost every Roman trattoria. Classically Amatriciana sauce is composed of tomato, guanciale, and Pecorino Romano cheese, with heat from red chili flakes. But should you include onions and garlic or not? Butter? White wine? Should the sauce be deep red or pinkish? Can you use pancetta? The debate is intense, and there have been scandals.


So where does that leave our version? Yes, we use onions, but not garlic. No butter, but a splash of olive oil and white wine. We’re partial to pancetta. Of course we use San Marzano tomatoes and Pecorino. The rich, but not too heavy sauce has a bit of a spicy kick before getting mixed with homemade bucatini. Though they look similar, bucatini differs from spaghetti in that it is a hollow tube, which means it’s even better at absorbing the sauce! Contains gluten, eggs, dairy.


Agnello alla Romana


Lamb is a springtime specialty and Easter mainstay for all Romans. Historically, the province of Lazio was renowned for its lamb and even since the times of the Roman Empire, it has been served as a delicacy. In Rome, the classic springtime lamb dish is Abbacchio alla Romana. Abbacchio (as opposed to agnello) is suckling lamb (30-45 days old) that is still milk-fed and typically sold between the end of February through May (so perfect for Easter). During the ancient Roman times, the lamb was marinated with garum, a fermented and salted anchovy sauce similar to Southeast Asian fish sauces that was incredibly popular in the cuisine of the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and Carthaginians. Nowadays, a rosemary, garlic, white wine, vinegar and anchovy sauce is used to marinate the meat before being braised to perfection. Since suckling lamb is hard to find in the States, we’ve kept the traditional recipe the same but replaced it with a boneless leg of lamb. Contains gluten, fish.


Patate Arrosto


Roast potatoes are popular throughout Italy and are traditionally served with the Abbacchio alla Romana for Easter. Here we’ve roasted them in butter, olive oil and salt until crispy, perfect for soaking up the sauce from the lamb. Contains dairy; vegetarian, gluten free.


Broccolini with Garlic & White Wine


Roasted lamb and sautéed bitter greens are a classic pairing found throughout the Mediterranean - the slight bitterness of the green acting as a perfect foil to the richness of the lamb. While kale, collards, broccoli rabe are all delicious pairings, we’ve opted for broccolini since it’s not too bitter and has an amazing crunchy stem similar to asparagus. Broccolini was actually created quite recently by the Sakata Seed Company of Yokohama, Japan in 1993. It’s a cross between Western broccoli and Chinese broccoli, a leafy vegetable known as gai lan in Cantonese. The perfect ratio of tender stems and flavorful florets have led to its popularity all around the world. Apropos of our Roman menu, the history of broccoli is also quite intriguing. Broccoli was actually engineered from cabbage by the ancient Etruscans of Tuscany (the Italian word “broccolo” means the flowering crest of a cabbage). So while broccolini might not be “traditional” per se, its origins are still very much linked with the peninsula. And when sautéed with garlic, anchovies, crushed red pepper flakes and white wine, it’s simply delicious. Contains fish; gluten free.


Migliaccio


This ricotta and semolina cake has its roots in Western Italy, from Tuscany down to Campania and is traditionally served for Carnival celebrations. It’s origins go back to the middle ages when sweet breads called miliaccium were made with millet flour and pigs blood (which was considered very nourishing when working on the fields all day). The Catholic clergy began viewing the use of pig blood as a pagan tradition and so over time it was replaced with egg, ricotta, and butter. Semolina also replaced millet, yet despite these changes it was still very much considered a plebian dessert until recently. Nowadays, this tart-like, light ricotta cheesecake accentuated by lemon zest is a beloved dessert in Rome and Naples. We spread a simple lemon syrup over the migliaccio for extra brightness. Contains dairy, egg, gluten; vegetarian.



Drink Recommendation


Castello di Torre in Pietra, Roma Rosso - $20

Available at Arbor Farms Market


This is a truly fantastic wine from Italy’s Lazio wine region, harvested and produced just 20~ kms due west of Rome. Wine was first produced in Lazio by the Etruscans and Romans, but the region was largely neglected from a vinification point of view after the fall of the Roman Empire. It was only when Rome was named capital of the Kingdom of Italy in 1871 that the region began to flourish again. While the region is primarily known for producing sharp, high acid white wine, this wine blends the classic varietals of Montepulciano, Sangiovese, and Cesanese, with Cesanese being one of the few indigenous red grapes still cultivated in the region. According to the winemakers at Castello di Torre in Pietra, who grow and harvest their own grapes using certified organic methods, this “blend of DOC Roma tries to give us back the wine that was drunk in taverns in Roman times.”





Rome, Italy: An Easter Special


It’s been exactly 47 days since we delivered our last meal, Dinner in Rio de Janeiro: A Carnival Special. We’ve spent the last month and a half developing our vision for the future of The White Pine Kitchen, implementing new software, working with distributors, and most importantly welcoming two new team members, Beth Ellis and Sean Brady. We’ve seen our fair share of product demos and, don’t get me wrong, we love a good excel spreadsheet, but we miss the kitchen! Call it divine intervention, but we just so happened to be ready this week, the week of Easter, to go live once again. So why not visit the spiritual capital of Catholicism: Rome?


We’re not going to go into a full history of the city of Rome, it’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited European settlements and there’s simply far too much information out there. So we’ll start in 64AD when Emperor Nero executed St. Peter and St. Paul at the base of Vatican Hill. Having embraced Christianity, Emperor Constantine I decided to build a Basilica over St. Peter’s tomb in 324 and from then onwards the city transformed into a spiritual center for Christian pilgrims. Throughout the first century AD, Christianity was still developing its theological cannon and many factions started to splinter off, especially in Central Asia. But what permanently solidified Rome as the spiritual capital it is today was the Great Schism of 1054, which essentially divided Christianity into Orthodox and Roman Catholicism. By the 16th Century, Rome was firmy the epicenter of the Italian Renaissance, led by Pope Julius II and Pope Leo X. Rome, or “The Eternal City” as it was known, was transformed into a city of art, poetry, music and literature, led by the likes of Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, and Perugino.


It’s no surprise then that Rome became a center for high cuisine, since the best chefs in Europe would be employed by the Pope. Bartolomeo Scappi, a chef for Pope Pius IV published Opera dell'arte del Cucinare, one of Europe's first major cookbooks and the first ever to include a picture of a fork. That said, Roman cuisine has been and always will be known for its pastoral roots - humble, inexpensive, and seasonal ingredients combined to create bold flavors. Unctuous guanciale, earthy Pecorino, bitter greens, and an abundance of offal meat (known as the “quinto quarto” or fifth quarter) define Roman cuisine, sometimes affectionately known as “cucina povera”, or poor cooking. Meat dishes like pajata (intestines of an unweaned calf), coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew), and trippa alla romana (tripe) are still incredibly popular as is gricia pasta and its derivatives (cacio e pepe, carbonara, and amatriciana). To top it all off the Jewish community in Rome is the oldest in Europe, leaving behind legacies such as artichokes alla giudia and a bevy of fried vegetables.


For Easter though, there’s one dish that is inescapable, omnipresent on all Roman tables: abbacchio, or suckling lamb. Romans love their baby animals, from veal to suckling pigs, but Roman lamb has been prized since the times of the ancient Romans. Lazio’s mountainous geography is perfect for shepherding and the arrival of new lambs symbolizes the beginning of springtime. Whether it be lamb chops allo scottadito, whole roasted al forno, or braised with garlic, wine and anchovies alla romana (our version), eating lamb on Easter is like eating turkey on Thanksgiving.


For Italians, Pasqua (Easter) is second only to Christmas and is typically celebrated from Palm Sunday to La Pasquetta, the Monday after Easter. At the Vatican, the Pope celebrates the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday that ends at the Colosseum. In order to snag a ticket for Easter Mass at St. Peter’s, you’d need to reserve nearly a half year in advance! Many religious processions are held during Good Friday and Holy Saturday, but Easter Sunday is a time for families to gather together and have a lunchtime (broadly defined as an all day) feast. The Monday after Easter is a national holiday, a time where many Roman families try to recuperate from the previous days festivities.


While I haven’t yet had the opportunity to experience Rome during Easter, I have been fortunate enough to visit the city on numerous occasions over the years and it truly is an Eternal City. A city that seems indifferent to the passage of time, where ancient ruins abut modern cafes and swanky rooftop lounges afford vistas overlooking the glistening domed churches that make up the city's skyline. Not stagnant by any means, as Rome is always moving, changing even as it is staying the same. A city of great beauty and a fitting place to celebrate rebirth, Buona Pasqua!




Featured Recipe: Bucatini all’Amatriciana

Makes 4 servings

For the Bucatini*

*note, making the bucatini requires a pasta extruder, this recipe is written with the kitchen aid pasta making attachment in mind. If you don’t have a pasta extruder, feel free to substitute with your favorite shape of homemade pasta, keeping the dough ratios below the same. Or substitute 1 lb of dried, store bought dried bucatini.


Ingredients

  • 400g 00 pasta flour, +100g more for dusting & kneading

  • 4 eggs

  • Water as needed, 1-4 tbsp

  • Semolina flour for dusting

Instructions

  1. Add 400g of the 00 flour to the mixing bowl and using the dough hook, mix on medium speed

  2. Add the eggs one at a time until the dough is fully incorporated, add water as needed one tsp at a time

  3. Knead the dough for 5~ minutes, until smooth and elastic when pressed with your thumb. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30+ mins

  4. Remove from the fridge, and on a well floured surface knead again until the dough is smooth, elastic, and not at all sticky. Wrap in plastic wrap and return to the fridge.

  5. Remove from the fridge, knead in additional flour if the dough feels sticky.

  6. Roll the dough into a log and cut into equal pieces about the size of a walnut. Roll into balls about the size of a walnut. You should have around 1 dozen

  7. Attach extruder with bucatini head to the kitchen aid.

  8. Turn speed to 10 and add balls one at a time.

  9. Cut pasta to desired length, about 9-10 inches

  10. Gently toss with semolina flour and roll into nests


For the Amatriciana Sauce


Ingredients:

  • Olive oil

  • 170g pancetta (or even better, if you can find it, Guanciale), finely chopped into ¼ in cubes

  • Red pepper flakes, 1.5 g (½ tsp)

  • Red onion, finely minced, 145 g (about half a large onion)

  • Dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio, ¼ cup

  • 1 28 oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand

  • Salt

  • Black pepper, freshly ground, ¼ tsp

  • Pecorino Romano finely grated for seving, 1 oz

Instructions:

  1. Coat the bottom of a saute pan with olive oil

  2. Slowly heat the diced pancetta in the olive oil over a medium-low heat

  3. Once the pancetta is beginning to brown and some of it’s fat has rendered out, add chilli flakes and red onions and saute in the rendered fat until just starting to brown

  4. Once the guanciale is lightly golden, and onions have just started to turn color add the white wine, deglaze and reduce slightly

  5. Add the tin of tomatoes, season with salt and pepper

  6. Cover and let simmer for 20~ mins, until flavors have melded


To cook:

  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.

  2. Carefully add the bucatini nest to the boiling water and stir gently

  3. Continue to stir gently to allow the pasta to separate

  4. Cook for 10-12 minutes at a rolling boil until it is almost al dente.

  5. Carefully transfer the bucatini to the pan with Amatriciana sauce along with a splash of the pasta water, about ¼-½ cup

  6. Stir to incorporate and cook for another few minutes more, until the pasta is tender and fully coated in the sauce

  7. Divide amongst two plates and top with Pecorino Romano and enjoy!



Recipes Inspired By:

  1. A classic for a reason, Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

  2. Regional Italian recipes from some of Italy’s Greatest Chefs

  3. My dear friend Fosco, a native Roman and excellent resource on the authentic cuisine of the city

  4. Agnello recipes from Caroline’s Cooking and My Little Italian Kitchen


Additional Resources:

  1. The scandal that shook Amatrice

  2. NYT reporter Stephen Hall’s Amatriciana pilgrimage is a great primer on how opinionated people are about their Amatriciana sauce

  3. A fantastic overview of Roman cuisines

  4. Celebrating Easter in Italy

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