It’s no secret that Italy is a foodie paradise. Each region is famed for its unique cuisine, with culinary traditions that go back hundreds of years. Most people know that the Emilia-Romagna region is home to the best Bolognese sauce, (as well as many other meats and cheeses), that Tuscany is sacred wine territory and that the south is the place to be for limoncello and seafood.
Rome, for all its history and architectural glory, often gets overlooked as a food haven in the shadows of its more famous neighbors. But Roman dishes aren’t to be missed. Simple, fresh and mouthwatering, these top Roman dishes will fill you up for less than €10.
Artichokes are big in Rome, and carciofialla Romana, or ‘Roman-style artichokes,’ is one of the region’s most famous dishes. It’s served in restaurants year-round, but traditionally it’s a spring dish, because the Romanesco artichoke variety is harvested between February and April. The artichokes are cleaned and rubbed with lemon juice, then stuffed with Roman parsley, salt, pepper and crushed garlic. Next they’re placed in a deep pan, doused with water, white wine and a bit of oil, and braised until they’re soft. The smooth leaves break from the artichoke head easily, and the lemony, salty, garlic flavor will blow your mind. Even those who don’t usually like artichokes, should try this delicious preparation.
Try it at: La Campana
The simplest of Roman dishes, yet also one of the most popular, cacio e pepe is like macaroni and cheese on steroids— it will have you dreaming of it long after you’ve left the Eternal City. Fresh tonnarelli pasta is tossed with lots and lots of pecorino cheese and cracked black pepper. The pecorino, a tangy, salty cheese, is the perfect complement to warm, homemade pasta, and you’ll be amazed how creamy the sauce becomes with just a touch of pasta water.
Another dish with just a handful of ingredients,amatriciana is one of the most traditional Roman dishes. Purists insist on no deviations from the recipe, and they have a point. Why ruin a good thing? Fresh tomatoes and guanciale, (pork jowl—like really fatty, delicious bacon), make up the base, and a bit of cheese, oil, onion and pepper are thrown in as well. The pasta is usually bucatini. It’s simple, but if the ingredients are fresh, the flavor will explode on your taste buds and make you wonder why you’ve never thought of such a simple and delicious combination. Best of all, it’s fairly easy to make when you get home.
Try it at: Da Gigetto, a trattoria in the Jewish Ghetto.
Carbonara is like Cacio e Pepe, but with two important additions—egg and guanciale. The pork is cooked in fat, while the fresh spaghetti is cooked al dente, then tossed with raw eggs, cheese and more fat. (This is done away from the heat, so that the egg doesn’t coagulate). Add in the guanciale, and you have the creamiest, most decadent of the Roman dishes.
Everyone knows that Naples has the best pizza in Italy, but Rome is a close second, if you can even compare the two. Roman-style pizza is nothing like the pies in Napoli, making them almost completely different dishes. Where Naples boasts fluffy crusts, the Romans make them thin and crispy, with wood-fired, almost burnt edges. A thin layer of fresh tomato sauce is spread across the dough, and sprinkled with fresh mozzarella and a variety of toppings. When in Rome, try to hold back from toppings at least once, and settle on a plain margherita—tomato sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil. We promise you won’t regret it.
Related: For more budget eating ideas in Rome, check out EuroCheapo’s full list of tips on the blog.