Lazio - Food and Wines - Food
Traditional cooking in Lazio is that of shepherds and farmers, made from a few simple ingredients, prepared with elementary methods, without trimmings. It's no surprise that the favorite dish is lamb, that is, the small, tender milk-fed lamb that is usually baked in the oven and served with vegetables of the season.
As for vegetables, the artichoke holds the place that lamb holds among meats. Called "romanesco," it has special characteristics, is without the spiny choke, round, and reaches gastronomic heights when prepared "alla giudia" (jewish style) according to the very old recipe that has contributed to the fame of the restaurants in the Roman ghetto. It's followed by the lettuce grown in all of Lazio and exported everywhere.
There's also a renowned tradition in Lazio of making products from pork such as salted ham, which has two production centers, one around Lake Bracciano, the other in the province of Frosinone. As for cheese, there are unique products such as "pecorino romano" and "ricotta" made from sheep's milk, soft and flavourful, which is prepared inside wicker baskets. Going towards Terracina, Formia, and Gaeta one finds the area were mozzarella di bufala is produced, a product that is impossible to find anywhere else in the world.
Cooking in Rome has very old traditions and is based on simple cooking with inexpensive ingredients. Fettucine or bucatini all'amatriciana were born from the country kitchens where one never lacked for a bit of bacon, some good olive oil and a few fresh tomatoes; and "coda alla vaccinara" or "rigatoni alla pajata" were born at Testaccio, around the communal slaughter house, where the eating places used the buthcher's leftovers that could not be sold.
Unfortunately we are witnessing the disappearance of the traditional osterie of Roma, which were family-run, simple, where everybody sat down at common tables, a sheet of paper under the plate, where you could order spaghetti all'amatriciana and a few other things cooked with honest simplicity. They were places where you could spend a few happy moments, drink some wine, laugh and talk in company.
The Castelli just outside Rome still live in their old traditions. This is the land of Bacchus, and in recent years we have seen the birth of wines of great quality thanks to the courage and perserverance of a group of local producers.