Rome is home to some of Italy’s most famous food. Here’s our insider’s guide to our top 10 Rome Food dishes that you need to try when you visit Italy! Until you visit, you can use our authentic Italian pasta recipes to experience a taste of Rome at home.
At the top of our list of must-try Rome food? Roman pasta dishes, of course! There are four pillars of Rome pasta—including some you probably haven’t heard of.
Everyone has heard of Spaghetti Carbonara, but have you ever tasted the real deal? The authentic Spaghetti Carbonara recipe made in Rome has just these ingredients: egg, pecorino romano cheese, black pepper, pasta. That’s it!
If you see a Spaghetti Carbonara with cream and bacon on the menu of a Rome restaurant, run the other way! You’ve probably landed in a restaurant targeting tourists.
There are some origin stories about Carbonara that suggest cream and bacon might have been ingredients in the very first version (see our fascinating WWII Carbonara article), however this is not (repeat NOT) considered the traditional Carbonara today in Rome or Italy in general.
Traditional Roman Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe has just 3 ingredients: Pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper and pasta! Don’t be surprised if the Cacio e Pepe pasta that you find in Rome has a light grayish-tan color. This is in fact a sign it’s made the traditional way!
Abroad, Pasta Cacio e Pepe sauces get their overly white color from the addition of heavy cream, which again is not traditional in this Rome food classic. In Rome, the Cacio e Pepe sauce is made by creating a creamy emulsion between hot starchy pasta water and the pecorino cheese. This pasta is typically finished in the pan with a pepper-infused water which also gives it a tint.
Until you visit Italy, make our authentic Roman Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe recipe at home!
The authentic Pasta alla Gricia recipe features a creamy pecorino romano sauce, black pepper and fine crispy guanciale. While guanciale is more traditional, it’s ok if a Rome restaurant is preparing it with pancetta. Similarly, Gricia can be prepared with a creamy pecorino sauce or with grated pecorino cheese.
Italians think of this Roman dish as the child of Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe and the parent of Amatriciana pasta. And speaking of Amatriciana…
#4 Spaghetti alla Amatriciana
Spaghetti with guanciale, white wine, olive oil, red pepper, tomato and pecorino cheese: It’s Spaghetti all’Amatriciana!
Pasta Amatriciana (Pasta all’Amatriciana) is considered a classic Roman pasta dish. It dates back to ancient times, when it was likely imported to Rome from the nearby Italian town of Amatrice by immigrants from the region. Pasta Amatriciana is considered the child of Spaghetti alla Gricia, which is essentially Spaghetti Amatriciana without the tomato.
When you are looking for the traditional preparation of this dish in Rome, there’s something you need to know.
Everywhere else in Italy, this dish is simply known as Pasta Burro e Parmigiano. It’s a very old and simple dish made with pasta, butter and parmigiano cheese. In the early 1900’s a Rome restaurant owner (Alfredo di Lelio) popularized this dish in his restaurant. The restaurant prepared the dish in a theatrical manner at tableside and tourists loved it. It came to be known abroad as Fettuccine Alfredo.
It’s likely you won’t see Fettuccine Alfredo on the menu at other Rome restaurants, unless they are catering to tourists. However if you love this dish, simply ask for Pasta Burro e Parmigiano and any Rome chef should be able to make the dish for you!
#6 Fettuccine alla Papalina
We absolutely love this pasta dish—relatively unknown abroad! You definitely want to try it in Rome. Just don’t call it Pasta Carbonara 😉
This dish is translated Pope’s Fettuccine. Legend has it that it was invented when Pope Pius XII asked for a ‘lighter’ and more refined version of the traditional Spaghetti Carbonara. Lighter it is not! However, the taste is to die for! Prosciutto replaces the guanciale and Parmigiano cheese is used instead of Pecorino cheese in the egg sauce. Plus? There’s butter and onion! Mamma mia…
A lesser-known Roman classic are these semolina dumplings called Gnocchi alla Romana. We think they are the ultimate comfort food—kind of like baked polenta or grits but with semolina instead of corn. While they don’t look at all like potato gnocchi, they are called gnocchi and some historians argue they probably pre-dated the potato gnocchi.
If you see these on the menu in a Rome restaurant, you know you’ve landed in the right place!
You are more likely to find this incredibly tasty vegetables mix during Spring. It’s a mix of spring vegetables that traditionally grow ‘between the grape vines‘ : peas, artichokes, lettuce, spring onions and more!
It’s traditionally prepared with mint and sometimes used as a condiment for pasta. A must-try!
#9 Trippa alla Romana ( Italian Tripe )
This one won’t be for everyone 🙂 Trippa or tripe is the stomach of an animal (usually cow). Roman style tripe is made with beef tripe and served with an incredible sauce—featuring tomato, mint, white wine and pecorino cheese.
This dish also dates back to ancient Roman times when tripe was an important source of protein for the poor.
#10 Roman Pizza alla Teglia
So called pizza alla teglia are popular throughout Italy these days. However, this style of pizza (baked in a large rectangular pan with short edges) is generally considered to have originated in Rome, Italy.
They are the pizza most associated with ‘to-go’ pizzas in Italy. Unlike some other pizza recipes, no guidelines have been associated with this kind of pan pizza. However, these tend to be the characteristics:
- short edges (the crust is not tall, like the Neapolitan pizza crust for instance)
- height and hydration vary: some ‘Roman’ pizzas are short like a short focaccia, while others are tall and soft like the recipe we show in our pizza making video above!
Check out our pizza making videos to learn how to make a Roman style pan pizza at home!
Let us know what your favorite Rome food is in the comments!
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