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Pasta is the Italian dish par excellence. It has to be al dente, eaten only with a fork and in the right restaurants.
Pasta is the best incarnation of Italy – a serious topic to say the least. Whether dry, in broth or baked, it’s a world to discover, with many regional delicious variants. Don’t underestimate its preparation or make it a last-minute decision like “let’s have some pasta…” as if it were a safe choice. In popular tradition, if a husband is served pasta with butter and Parmesan cheese, it means his wife is neglecting him – perhaps a sign that she is devoting her time to someone else. But is this really the case? As for the wife, maybe, but for the pasta, definitely not. Here’s some advice for recognising pasta as it should be.
The choice of pasta
The greatest starred chefs argue that preparing a good ragù or aglio e olio pasta is not easy. First of all, the dry pasta must be of high quality, and in Italy, we are fortunate to have some of the best pasta factories retailing in supermarkets. In addition, more and more restaurants are offering gluten free alternatives or kamut and buckwheat grain proposals.
The right pairing
Fresh pasta goes well with the right sauces, like classic tagliatelle with ragù meat sauce, orecchiette with turnip greens and passatelli in broth. The tradition of some recipes is sacred: don’t be tempted by contemporary interpretations which only distort a cacio cheese and pepper or ligurian pesto sauce.
How to cook it
Cooking is essential to the success of a good first course. It must be al dente, which makes it easier to digest. Pasta must absolutely not be overcooked nor should it be rinsed under cold water before serving. Beware of restaurants that serve express pasta.
How to eat it
You only eat pasta with a fork; the spoon is banished! Don’t cut it – the longer, the better – and don’t worry if you get dirty.
Our favourite addresses
This 1960’s retro-style trattoria led by young chef Sarah Cicolini was named best trattoria of the year. Cicolini was self-taught and her strong character is clearly reflected in her dishes. No frills and lots of substance. She boasts a special collaboration with Mauro Secondi, serving many types of dishes, from cannelloni with guinea fowl, spaghettone, rigatoni with pajata, to the most classic amatriciana, cacio e pepe and gricia.
Defining itself as a gastro bistro, this one-Michelin-star venue is refined and elegant. Chef Noda Kotaro merged Roman cuisine with Japanese tradition. Creative main courses live harmoniously with the simplicity of the classics. You can experiment with the cold tagliolino tomato and basil or grano arso flour fettuccine and bottarga or aim for traditional dishes made to perfection.
Roman tradition par excellence, this is the perfect restaurant for Sunday lunch. The key word here is simplicity. The pasta is homemade daily and the ingredients are grown in a private garden, just outside the Capital. Frequented by true Romans who do not want to forget traditional flavours. The carbonara and cacio e pepe are extremely popular.