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Cucina povera literally means ‘poor kitchen’, but what it really refers to is good, old fashioned Italian traditional cuisine.
Dishes revolve around what is known as ‘the fifth quarter’ of the butchered animal. In other words the offal such as tripe, tongue, brain, heart, liver and tail, usually destined to be thrown away.
Up to the past century, butchers working in the slaughter house (which used to be housed in the Testaccio district), were paid in mixture of cash and leftover meat – specifically the ‘fifth quarter’.
The combination of these ‘poor’ ingredients result in delicious dishes such as rigatoni with pajata – (pasta tubes accompanied by a tomato sauce made with small intestine of an unweaned calf full of milk). Or trippa romana – tomato and wild mint-based sauce with cow tripe; coda alla vaccinara – oxtail cooked in a light tomato sauce. And the famous saltimbocca – literally ‘leap-in-the mouth’ because it is so tasty … veal escalopes cooked with a slice of ham and sage with a drizzle of white wine.
What lies behind the success of Roman cuisine is the use of local ingredients such tasty pecorino cheese, meat such as guanciale – (cured pork cheek) and many flavourful products from the Roman countryside. Dishes like pasta e fagioli – with pork skin; spaghetti alla carbonara – (pasta made with a creamy sauce done by mixing only egg yolk and pecorino cheese … then adding black pepper. (Hence the name carbonara: charcoal worker); bucatini alla amatriciana – (traditional sauce from Amatrice in the hills north of Rome … made with guanciale, tomatoes, chilli pepper and pecorino cheese – no onions or garlic)! Or pasta alla gricia – an older version of amatriciana without the tomatoes.
There are also fettuccine alla papalina – pope style (made especially for Pope Pius XII – like a carbonara but with cured ham, peas and onion; not forgetting penne all’arrabbiata – (angry pasta), because the tomato sauce is really hot and fiery, hence the name. And the pasta alla puttanesca – (the prostitute pasta); a sauce of tomatoes, olive, capers and garlic).
Our Progressive Dining and Walking Tours are a fun and exciting way to taste many types of Italian food in one night, and do some sightseeing along the way.
Looking for the best bakery in Rome? Forno Campo de’ Fiori is situated in the heart of Rome. They’re our favourite bakery and often visit when showing tourists around this beautiful, Eternal City.