Lazio in tavola
The Lazio region, located in central Italy, has always been a seat of cultural exchange, especially during the Roman Age. Simple pasta sauces, roast meats and pork products dominate the table.
Lazio was the heart of the Roman Empire and is full of incredible landscapes and antiquities. Many ancient Roman ports were located along the region’s spectacular Tyrrhenian coastline. The ports have since become popular tourist destinations. In the green valleys of Aniene and Tiber Rivers you will find picturesque cities housing vestiges of times past.
From Ciociaria to the Pontine Marshes, the natural beauty and architecture of Lazio have been immortalized in the drawings and paintings made by artists on the Grand Tour. The works of art capture the bucolic landscapes and ancient ruins, through which herds of sheep would graze. In Rome, the capital of Lazio, you will find history hidden in every corner, from the Fori Imeriali to the Coliseum, Pantheon and St. Peter’s Cathedral. Then, there is the Baroque architecture of the churches and fountains that adorn the city’s many piazzas.
Although the history of the region includes stories of wealth and power, especially when it comes to the Eternal City, Lazio’s history is really an intersection of different cultures. Examples of cultural exchange date back to the Etruscans and are certainly reflected in the regional cooking.
The food of Lazio if made up of simple dishes that are quick and easy to cook. Everything is based on great, fresh ingredients that are available to everyone. The extra virgin olive oil from Canino and Sabina, for example, are used in many of the traditional recipes.
The sauces that adorn the pasta dishes in Lazio, vary from the very simple like cacio e pepe, or salty Roman pecorino and pepper, to much more elaborate recipes that may include butter, egg, pancetta or guanciale. The traditional pasta sauce from Amatrice, called Amatriciana, is made by sautéing onions in pork fat, adding tomatoes and spices and allowing the flavors to come together. The sauces are typically served with long pasta noodles like spaghetti and fettuccine. Short, or broken pasta, often appears in soups, where it is pairs with beans, chickpeas, cabbage, or broccoli and flavored with pounded lard, onions and herbs.
In Lazio, rice is used to make supplì, or rice balls, which are similar to the arancini you find in southern Italy. The baseball-sized balls are often stuffed with mozzarella or chicken giblets and the rice itself is cooked in a tomato sauce with more giblets, like in some Tuscan recipes.
Beef is the meat of choice in Lazio, however lamb and kid is also served. Coda alla Vaccinara, or braised oxtail, is a popular Roman dish. Outside of the city, and especially during the spring, you can find abbacchio, or lamb, baked in the oven, roasted on a spit or prepared in a fricassee. Many people eat chicken as well and either roast it or cook it with tomato and peppers, or in a pan with fiery spices. The most popular regional pork recipe is porchetta alla romana.
Pork is also used to make Guanciale, or cured pork cheek, Ventresca, cured belly meat, Mortadella di Amatrice, sausages or salsicce, lard and prosciutto. Often the salumi are spicy, but they are always flavorful.
Much of the fish consumed in Lazio comes from the Tiber River and Bolsena Lake, including ciriole, caption and freshwater eels.
In terms of dairy production, Lazio is famous for its sheep’s milk pecorinos, but also buffalo’s milk mozzarella, made like it is in nearby Campania. Roman ricotta is delicious and is used in many desserts and fillings. The rich soil in Lazio produces excellent artichokes (often prepared Alla giudìa, or fried), but also cauliflower, fava beans, peas and the renowned Lentils of Onano.
Even when it comes to desserts, they keep it simple in Lazio. Maritozzi, a type of cream-filled pastry, doughnuts, fried rice treats and ricotta tarts are all popular. And when it comes to wine, Lazio is known for Est Est Est from Montefiascone, produced in the area near Lake Bolsena, and Falerno, which was loved by the Roman emperors.