Bucatini, fettuccine, rigatoni…
Federico Schiaffino gives you the rundown on the Eternal City’s 7 preferred pastas.
Gnocchi alla Romana
“Thursday gnocchi,Saturday tripe,” or so goes one of the oldest Roman sayings. Potato gnocchi is still the Thursday special of plenty of traditional trattorias today, but the Eternal City’s take on the dish is another thing entirely. Roman gnocchi are made with semolina, milk, and salt, baked and then adorned with a generous dusting of pecorino cheese. You can also find them dressed in tomato sauce.
Bucatini pasta can be considered one of Laziale cuisine’s representatives, inevitably associated with amatriciana sauce (tomato and pork cheek). The celebrated bucatino, a thick noodle with a hole through the middle, is an ancient invention. In the past, this pasta shape was formed by rolling a piece of dough around a reed or a smooth twig. A warning: eating bucatini may result in tomato stains thanks to the sauce that splatters from the hole at each noodle’s center, just a part of this dish’s gluttonous tradition.
Flour, eggs, water, a pinch of salt, and considerable arm strength prove the perfect recipe for fettuccine, arguably the most famous pasta in the world. Once upon a time, fettuccine were prepared entirely by hand, using the classic technique of a well of our to create the dough, and then mixing and rolling it out. Later, the rolling pin was introduced and nowadays pasta machines are utilized. But no matter how you make it, this pasta is bound to be delicious. The most famous fettuccine dish is Fettuccine Alfredo, made with triple butter and parmesan. Fun fact: Fettuccine need to be at least 4 to 6 millimeters thick; smaller than that and they are tagliolini; bigger and they are tagliatelle. You’ll also find this pasta paired with a meaty ragù or porcini mushrooms.
The name “rigatoni” refers to the invention of the “rigatura,” that is, the scoring of the pasta. By marking the pasta with little indentations, the sauce adheres better to each noodle, illustrating the importance of pasta and sauce pairings. Rigatoni are one of the best loved pastas by Italians, above all Romans, who typically pair it with the rustic pajata, a sauce of lamb intestines, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese.
Quadrucci are little squares of egg pasta, ideal for minestrones, broths, and soups, a favorite of little ones especially. The pasta is made with our, eggs, and sometimes a pinch of nutmeg. Quadrucci were originally invented as a way to use up leftover dough from making fettuccine during the holidays. Whole wheat and spelt our varieties are also becoming available.
Since the beginning of the last century, when Roman women and children would gather to prepare Christmas dinner, cappelletti have become synonymous with the winter holidays. Closely related to tortellini from the northern region of Emilia Romagna, the Roman ones differ in size (they’re a bit bigger) and in filling (beef, chicken, or a mix of cheeses and nutmeg). Tradition requires them to be served in a rich capon broth, but chicken works well too. The name of this pasta derives from its shape, which resembles a medieval hat.
Maccheroni typically refers to any type of short, tube-shaped pasta (outside of Italy it’s often con- sidered a synonym of dried pasta), empty inside, the better to trap sauce with. Classic maccheroni from Lazio are square instead of round, and are perfect with every type of sauce, especially garlic and olive oil or tomato and basil.