The Roman food: from the emperors dishes to popular delicacies
The Imperial Rome food The ancient Romans used to eat very differently from those of today, with whom they have in common only the fact of having 3 meals per day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. The same meals were those the majority of the population normally had - which consisted in more than a million inhabitants, nearly all not so rich. The food for the upper classes and especially for emperors was considered a true symbol of royalty, of superiority and ostentation of riches.
Several commentators and intellectuals of the time including Macronio, Giovenale, Svetonio, Pliny the elder himself or Galen, reported the chronicles of gargantuan banquets. There were dishes that can be considered typical, except for spelt flour bread and a compound similar to polenta, or of the so-called "garum".
The Garum was a sauce made of anchovies in brine, from which a kind of paste for spreading on bread, very expensive and hard to come by was made. It was a real delicacy, for the Romans, the emperors from Tiberius to Caligula, Nero and Augustus.
Another food the Roman Emperors loved was the pork, at least as much as wine.
The pork, spices and wine on the tables of emperors
Pork was used to produce fresh sausages to roast on the grill and animals were often from private farms, producing fruit, vegetables and other local products, too.
Thanks to the expansion of the Roman Empire, the Spice route rose and so other foods, that soon made the Roman dishes more peculiar.
Usually, combinations were extravagant - if compared to the current cuisine, because they liked sweet tastes mixed with spicy or salty.
The wine was mixed with honey or water - warm during the summer and cold during the summer, to heat or give relief to diners, the Greeks thought them.
Apparently, emperor Caligula had the habit of drinking different kinds of wine during the same meal, and even abusing it so much, to get drunk.
During the imperial meals, they used to eat lying on the left side, on a pillow. There were no forks, but bare hands, which had to be washed several times during the meal.
It is said, some lunches of emperors were going ahead for 10-12 hours until the following morning, and often food was prepared without even being eaten, since guests were quite satisfied.
Today, things have definitely changed and most of the Roman dishes have French and Italic influences, dating back to the middle ages.
Popular delicacies of the current Roman cuisine
The popular Roman cuisine is characterized by strong and persistent flavours, that win right away for flavor and fragrance.
There are several typical dishes and the first one we have to mention is the pasta carbonara, amatriciana and the "gricia".
They are 3 first courses made of simple rural tradition ingredients, using local products and such as cheese: Pecorino Romano is the most famous one.
Pasta alla carbonara is made of spaghetti and guanciale, mixed with egg yolk, lots of black pepper and Pecorino cheese, in equal proportions. Everything must be curdled for a few minutes, enjoying the preparation and the smell of these strongly aromatic ingredients.
Pasta all'amatriciana is "red", because it consists in bucatini seasoned with guanciale and tomato sauce, completed by a sprinkling of Pecorino Romano. Finally, the "gricia": it is the traditional "white" version of the amatriciana. You can also use the bucatini in this case, and it takes a few time to make it. Once you have drained the pasta, just pour Pecorino, black pepper and stir it in cooking water.
Traditional second courses
The second courses of the popular Roman cuisine win who wants to taste them. Meat, like coda alla vaccinara, abbacchio a scottadito, saltimbocca, tripe and many others.
In most cases, the meat is seasoned by tomato sauce, to make it suppler and tasty. Coda alla vaccinara is prepared in a traditional pot shard, allowing a uniform cooking. The meat is cooked in a sauce flavored with classic scents (garlic, onion, celery, carrot and parsley, fried in lard or guanciale).
The abbacchio a scottadito is the most typical Roman dish and it requires a certain amount of grilled lamb chops. The meat is previously flavored in a marinade of smells (rosemary, garlic, sage, olive oil, etc.) and then salted and cooked.
It's called "a scottadito" because it should be served and immediately eaten with the hands, as tradition dictates. Many people have it served with a side of roasted potatoes.
Trippa alla romana is one of the poorest dishes of the popular cuisine, but extremely tasty. You buy it already cleaned by your butcher for cooking it in the famous soffritto. Then, you immediately add tomatoes and let it cook for about half an hour. At the end, add some Pecorino. An alternate version, is made of baked potatoes, cut into chunks, to make the sauce more creamy.
Typical Roman desserts and wines
There are delicious dishes proposed at the end of the meal, in Roman cuisine.
The Maritozzi with cream, simple, tasty and fragrant, dating back to 1800s; the tradition says they were offered by suitors, so future "husbands", to the brides.
There are also the frappe and castagnole, typical of Carnival celebrations, made of fried pastry topped with powdered sugar.
The wines from the Castelli Romani are famous, too, both white and red, to drink with tarallucci, dipping them in a large glass.
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