In this series, we look more closely at a lesser-known region of Italy in every issue. As consumers continue to clamor for authentic, regional foods from Italy, it pays to be a step ahead! This month, we travel to Central Italy and to the region of Lazio.
Lazio is located in Central Italy, and the ancestral center of the Roman empire and its capital, Rome. The entire region is rich in cultural history, iconic landscapes and antiquities, from port towns on the Mediterranean coastline to the river valleys of the Aniene and Tiber rivers.
The food of Lazio is made up of simple dishes that are quick and easy to cook, and based on great, fresh ingredients that are available to everyone. Local ingredients include sheep’s milk cheeses (pecorino), cauliflower, fava beans, peas and the renowned lentils of Onano. Generally, you’ll find more lamb and sheep-milk cheeses here, though beef is celebrated– especially oxtail, a local specialty– and pork is typically found in charcuterie form.
A local favorite charcuterie item is guanciale, a bacon-like preparation from the pork jowl. It plays a starring role in one of the most-known pasta dishes from Lazio, the iconic A’matriciana: a simple dish of guanciale or bacon, tomato and onion, often with a bit of red peperoncino for heat. In the town of Amatrice where it was created, it’s served on thick spaghetti, but in Rome, bucatini is preferred.
Speaking of bucatini, we couldn’t write about the simple pastas of Lazio without covering cacio e pepe. Literally translated as “cheese and pepper,” it’s a beautifully simple dish with bucatini, pecorino cheese, and plenty of cracked black pepper. Here, Barilla Executive Chef Lorenzo Boni elevates it a bit with truffle butter, which is a fantastic idea! No wonder cacio e pepe was one of the top pasta dishes on IG in recent years.
Laconda in San Francisco does both the Amatriciana and cacio e pepe on their menu, the latter with the perfect menu description: “Pecorino di fossa, long pepper, basta (enough).” In Chicago, newcomer Torchio Pasta Bar has been getting raves as the “best cacio e pepe in the city” after only a few months on the scene.