Pasta, pancetta and puntarelle – Rome’s tantalising selection of treats will keep any foodie content.
Smooth and slightly spicy, a pasta combination all about timing
Tonnarelli cacio e pepe (Tonnarelli pasta with cacio cheese and pepper)
Simple and tasty, this takes time and care to get it just right. The scent of this Roman peasant recipe wafts temptingly from the windows of restaurants in the Testaccio district. Each strand of al dente, spaghetti-like tonnarelli should be coated in a fine Pecorino Romano cheese-based sauce that’s creamy, buttery and peppery – all at once.
A signature match of pasta and tomato with Roman flair
Bucatini all’ Amatriciana (Bucatini pasta with amatriciana sauce)
A staple of local cuisine, this plate of linguine – or the thicker bucatini variety – sits doused in a sweetly seasoned, tomato-based sauce. There’s debate as to how Roman the dish really is but the city has provided its own characteristic flourish – dry white wine and chopped onion, with guianciale (salt-cured pork jowl) adding a salty kick to the mix.
Suppli (Deep-fried stuffed rice balls)
A Roman take on Sicilian arancini, these crunchy, deep-fried risotto balls are a great on-the-go snack that can be eaten almost any time of day. Break a suppli in half and gooey mozzarella oozes from amongst the tomato-rice mix, creating a string between the two parts – hence the nickname: “suppli al telefono”.
A seasonal vegetable dish with meaty flavour
Fave alla romana (Roman-style broad beans)
Fat, bright-green broad beans are at their best between March and June, and this springtime vegetable find its way onto Roman dinner tables throughout the season. It combines the bitter-yet-buttery flavour of the beans with pancetta and a serving of sizzling fried onions. Fresh, chopped mint is often added for a sweet contrast.
Local tip: You’ll also come across these celebrated beans in side dishes, lathered with shavings of salty Pecorino cheese.
Stewed oxtail that’s rich in heritage and flavour
Coda alla vaccinara (Roman-style oxtail stew)
With a chunky piece of bread, or a generous helping of rigatoni, this juicy platter packs in a pile of flavours. Tender oxtail falls off the bone and into a rich mix of vegetables and pancetta, making for a warming winter dish that’s been served in trattorias all over the city for decades.
Local tip: A foodie favourite, the Testaccio neighbourhood’s Trattoria Checchino dal 1887 is said to be the birthplace of the dish.
Artichokes steeped in history
Carciofo alla giudia
Before it became a staple of Roman cuisine, the Jewish quarter whipped this up at the end of Yom Kippur. Romanesco artichokes are in their prime between February and April when they’re fried in olive oil, creating a light, crunchy texture and a nutty taste. Served whole, the vegetable is enjoyed simply on its own, sometimes with a wedge or two of lemon.
Local tip: Romanesco artichokes, hailing from the coast between Ladispoli and Civitavecchia, are the ideal variety for this recipe.
Cream-filled buns for sweet-toothed romantics
Maritozzo alla panna
Once a gift from grooms (‘maritozzo’) to their wives-to-be, these dainty, fluffy buns are scattered through with raisins, candied fruit or orange peel. A streak of syrup coats the outside before the bun is sliced through the middle and filled with lashings of whipped cream.
Local tip: You’ll see Romans munching on these treats for breakfast, or in maritozzari shops, where they’re served as a late-night snack.
A slow-roasted Easter treat of fragrant lamb
Abbacchio alla romana (Baby-lamb Roman style)
Romans normally prepare this tender cut as part of a feast to mark the springtime festival. A rack of suckling lamb, seasoned in a garlicky herb-and-anchovy mix before being slow-roasted with white wine. This succulent meat is served with potatoes and a sprig of fragrant rosemary.
A rustic Roman dish plucked straight from the garden
Cicoria ripassata (Sauteed dandelion greens)
Bringing a little of the countryside to the city, this verdant offering – prepared with sautéed chicory or dandelion leaves – produces a slightly bitter flavour and is packed with nutrients. Softened with olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes, they’re often topped with some Parmesan cheese and a wedge of lemon.
A well-loved spaghetti special with smoky undertones
Spaghetti alla carbonara
The name of this dish refers to carbonai – charcoal burners who favoured this simple-to-prepare dinner. A scattering of peppercorns top a tangle of spaghetti, stirred into a lip-smacking fusion of eggs, bacon and pecorino cheese – sometimes with the addition of cream or butter for an indulgent, velvety variation.
A veal speciality wrapped up in layers of tasty treats
Saltimbocca alla romana
This tasty helping of veal delivers one taste sensation after another. Literally translated as “jump in the mouth”, it’s guaranteed to be gobbled up as soon as it’s dished up. The escalopes are wrapped in salty prosciutto and topped with aromatic sage leaves. Oil, butter and marsala wine make for a rich, tasty accompaniment.
A crisp and sharp salad loved by locals
Puntarelle alla romana (Roman-style puntarelle chicory)
Curls of this raw green Italian chicory are doused in olive oil and vinegar, and tossed with garlic and anchovies to make this fresh salad. With a satisfying crunch and a vinaigrette tang, you may see these seasonal greens as an accompaniment to a meat dish, fried cod fillets or a plate of pasta.
A courgette-based snack in full bloom
Fiori di zucca fritti alla romana
The perfect finger food, these vibrant oranges and green flowers are stuffed with a decadent blend of mozzarella and anchovies. Coated in batter and plated up fresh from the pan, they’re the perfect starter or snack.
Local tip: Locals will order “un fiore” in restaurants, which translates to “flower”.
Crunchy, fishy bites to eat on the go
Filetti di baccalà fritti
You’ll pick these up these tasty titbits in pizzerias and fast-food shops. Salted cod fillets are deep fried and generally enjoyed by themselves, making for a tasty nibble when you’re short on time.
Honeycomb-like offal morsels to soak up a scrumptious sauce
Trippa alla romana
A delectable bowl of tomato, herbs and parmesan or pecorino cheese infuses tasty nuggets of tripe. Cubes of pancetta provide a salty kick, while fresh mint cuts a contrast to the savoury plate.
An enduring pairing of veal and pasta
So called the “quinto quarto”, or the “fifth fourth”, this was the “extra” part of the calf that local trattorias began to conjure up into a tasty platter long ago. The resulting mix includes veal intestines fried with garlic, and garnished with a tomato sauce and tubes of tender rigatoni. The veal offal is often replaced with cow intestines.
Local tip: The Testaccio neighbourhood is the place to head to sample some of Rome’s most famous cuisine, including this meat delicacy.
Simply prepared artichokes packing in multiple flavours
Carciofo alla romana
Unlike Jewish-style artichokes, this springtime vegetable is braised, rather than fried. Served whole and upright on the plate, you’ll cut into a tender blend of salt, red pepper flakes and garlic, all complemented by the tang of lemon and olive oil.
A classic Italian pasta plate with local flourishes
Pasta alla gricia
Salty, rich and smoky, this ancient mesh of tonnarelli pasta has an especially Roman spin with gratings of Pecorino cheese and chunks of guanciale pork topped with pepper corns.
Pops of red and yellow add colour to this creation
Pollo alla romana (con i peperoni)
Slithers of vibrantly hued peppers give a juicy and colourful edge to this slowly cooked chicken and tomato-based mix, which makes its debut in the summer months.