The Food and Cuisine of Latium (Lazio)
Lazio’s clame to culinary fame diverse flavors collected from influence around the world, wherever the Roman empire reigned. The national capital of Italy, Rome, is a sophisticated city full of international political emissaries and wealthy travelers. These visitors naturally expect some of the most sophisticated food of Italy.
Feasting in Lazio often begins with lavish antipasti. Lazio recipes for appetizers feature fresh seafood, preserved meats, ripe produce, artisanal baked foods and the most fragrant olives and olive oils that the region can produce.
Brothy soups are offered in Lazio cuisine, though rarely are they plain. Pasta e ceci is a rosemary and garlic scented broth with pasta. Hot beef broth is flavored with nutmeg and has ragged strips of egg stirred throughout before garnishing with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Stewed white beans, flavored with prosciutto, pork rind, garlic, onions and rosemary are also enjoyed.
Lazio cooking uses fresh produce that is young and tender. Artichokes may be served raw or fried, either with garlic and mint or deep fried according to the traditions of the Jewish ghetto. Local rocket is prized for fresh salads. Puntarella, or endive, is seasoned with anchovies and garlic before serving cold. Another popular cold vegetable dish is pomodori ripieno, tomatoes that are stuffed with chopped tomato, rice and potatoes, seasoned with garlic and basil and baked before chilling.
Lazio recipes may use fresh or dried pasta in many different shapes. Fresh pasta is eaten in lasagne or the famous fettuccine al burro. This dish takes strips of an egg dough and gently coats them in butter, cream and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Lazio recipes for pasta often call for tubes, as this shape is more effective for holding onto hearty sauces. Bucatini all’amatriciana tosses thin tubes with a spicy pork sauce with grated Pecorino cheese, sometimes with garlic or tomatoes for added flavor. Penne all’arrabbiata is topped with a piquant tomato sauce seasoned with chili peppers and garlic. Chunky tubes are served with a filling tomato sauce that contains beef intestine and is flavored with herbs, garlic and salt pork to make rigatoni con la pajata. Even the simple spaghetti is dressed with extra virgin olive oil that has been heated with garlic, parsley and chili peppers for spaghetti all’aglio, olio, peperonchino.
Other beloved starchy dishes are made from wheat, potatoes, rice and polenta. Potato or semolina gnocchi dumplings are popular foods. Polenta and rice are also commonly prepared in Lazio recipes. Suppli al telefono is hand held balls of rice stuffed with mozzarella cheese and sometimes flavored with liver, veal or anchovies. When they are eaten, the cheese is said to stretch out in strings resembling telephone wires.
Seafood is often eaten in Lazio cuisine. The two ports provide ample quantities of inexpensive shellfish and fish and salt cured cod is a staple food. Salt cod, tomatoes, pignolas and raisins are cooked in olive oil and onions to make baccalà in guazzetto. Mussels are served steamed with garlic, tomatoes and parsley for cozze alla marinara. For special occasions, Lazio recipes feature giant shrimp, sea bass or imported lobsters and oysters. This kind of food is often served grilled with a simple seasoning of olive oil and lemon juice.
Unweaned lamb is used in Lazio cooking all year long, though it is most commonly eaten for Easter celebrations. Abbacchio cooks the lamb in an anchovy, garlic and rosemary flavored vinegar. Liver from lamb or kid and artichoke hearts are braised in white wine with olive oil for coratelle con carciofl. Other meat dishes include poultry, which is often braised with vegetables in olive oil and white wine.
The more well to do also enjoy beef and veal in their dishes with the offal and less preferred cuts for the working class. Veal fillets are sauteed with prosiutto in a sage flavored butter and white wine sauce to make saltimbocca alla romana. Veal and guanciale can also be braised in a tomato and garlic sauce for involtini alla romana. For a rich stew, oxtail and celery are stewed in white wine with onions and tomatoes.
Pork is eaten roasted or preserved in salt or lard for eating later. Lazio cuisine is well known for spaghetti alla carbonara. Guanciale, a luscious bacon made from tender pork cheeks, is sauteed with garlic and chilis before mixing with scrambled raw eggs. This sauce is tossed with spaghetti hot enough to cook the egg on contact and garnished with freshly grated Pecorino before serving.
Pecorino Romano is a well known food, but the mozzarella di bufala and the sweet ricotta romana are incomparable. Ricotta romana is always made from grassfed sheep milk and eaten within a couple of days of being made or salted and preserved to grate later on. Provatura and marzolino are sheep or goat milk cheeses that are also popular in this region.
Lazio cooking is famous for desserts which include the dense, sweet ice cream called gelato. Baked sweets are popular also. Raisin buns called maritozzi are often eaten during Lent. Pastries called bignè are filled with cream and pan giallo is a fruit and nut filled cake soaked in rum. Zuppa inglese, a custard cake, is also liqueur drenched.
Canino PDO, Sabina PDO, Tuscia PDO
Fresh & Cured Meats:
Mortadella Bologna PGI, Salamini italiani alla cacciatora PDO, Vitellone Bianco dell’Appennino Centrale PGI
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO, Pecorino Romano PDO. Pecorino Toscano PDO, Ricotta Romana PDO
Kiwi Latina PGI
Carciofo romanesco del Lazio PGI
Breads & Cereals:
Pane Casareccio di Genzano PGI