The 4 Quintessential Roman Pasta Dishes, According To Giada De Laurentiis

When people think about Italy a few things often come to mind — pizza, wine, and pasta. Of the three, Italy is most known for its abundant gifts of pasta to the world. Anything from spaghetti to farfalle to lasagna, Italian cooking has produced a bountiful amount of dishes adored the world over. So much is their influence, that you can see tons of different takes on classics in countries like the United States and Argentina (two of the countries affected by the Italian diaspora, according to a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research).

When traveling to Italy, one begins to dream of all the different pasta dishes that can be had. Things like bolognese to ravioli begin to float into view, but it is good to note that you shouldn't ask for a grilled chicken fettuccine in Alfredo sauce, as it is a dish that is primarily famous aboard, as Devour Rome tells us. Thankfully, the world has folks like renowned chef and TV personality Giada De Laurentiis to help provide guidance on which pastas folks should be diving into when visiting the beautiful and historic city of Rome.

Cacio E Pepe

First up on her list of the pastas she mentions on Giadzy is the ever-so-decadent Cacio E Pepe. This creamy and delightful dish requires very few ingredients that many at home cooks probably already have laying around their kitchens. According to Giadzy, all you would need to make this dish are your choice of pasta noodle, cheese (preferably pecorino), cracked pepper, olive oil, and starchy pasta water (so don't throw it out!).

The dish's simplicity can date back to its ancient Italian roots, Chowhound cites. The publication explains how ancient Roman shepherds would carry around dried pasta, aged pecorino, and pepper while they would take their sheep out to graze during the spring and summer seasons. Since their jobs were to follow said sheep, they could be gone for long periods of time, and so they tried to travel prepared. Things like dried pasta, aged cheese, and pepper were simple and efficient to carry in their bags due to the fact that they didn't need refrigeration.

Pasta all' Amatriciana

Next up on De Laurentiis' list of decadent pastas is the oh-so-traditional Pasta all' Amatriciana. According to Life in Italy, this dish has origins that may be a little hazy. Although it is named after its namesake city of Amatrice, Rome also claims some dibs in the creation department.

To make this pasta dish, all you would need is tomatoes, red pepper flakes, pecorino cheese, and little chunks of cured pork cheeks (also known as guanciale in Italy), Giadzy cites. Life in Italy adds that this recipe might stem from the simple gricia sauce, due to similar ingredients, but it was around the late 17th century and early 18th century that tomatoes were added into the mix (and made it what it is today).

Apparently the first written mention of the recipe was in none other than the famed Roman chef Francesco Leonardi's 1790 cookbook The Modern Apicius (per Academia Barilla) — he also happened to serve it to the pope. Like many Italian recipes, deviations from the OG recipe are seen as a bit blasphemous. This made very clear when Chef Carlo Cracco admitted on TV that he liked to use garlic in the sauce and was thus publicly judged by the entire town of Amatrice, The Guardian reports.

Pasta Alla Gricia

This pasta might be the most versatile of all four of De Laurentiis' recommended dishes. According to The Pasta Project, with a simple alteration of the ingredients, this pasta and sauce can serve as the base for Cacio E Pepe, Pasta all' Amatriciana, and Pasta Carbonara.

To make this dish, all that is needed is guanciale, pecorino, black pepper, and olive oil, Giadzy cites. Taste Atlas notes that the true origin of this savory pasta dish is unknown, but it is sometimes called Amatriciana bianca (or white Amatriciana) because both dishes would be identical, were it not for the tomatoes in Pasta all' Amatriciana. Much like the history of Cacio E Pepe, Pasta alla Gricia was another version of pasta that the shepherds of ancient Rome would make while they were away tending to their sheep in the Apennine mountains, Taste Atlas explains. Unfortunately for Chef Cracco, much like his "lapse of judgement" with adding garlic to Pasta all' Amatriciana, Serious Eats reports he had another mishap while hosting MasterChef Italia with Joe Bastianich. Cracco reportedly stated that one should add onions to the Pasta Alla Gricia recipe.

Pasta Carbonara

Last but definitely not least on Giadzy's list of pasta dishes is the ever-so-wonderful and slightly controversial Pasta Carbonara. Of the four pasta dishes, carbonara may be the one that requires a bit of technique, due to one of the ingredients.

To make it, you'd need egg yolks, pecorino, and guanciale, Giadzy cites. Like many things with eggs, it's important to cook carefully as you don't want to scramble the egg yolks. Serious Eats cites that although Pasta Carbonara is seen as a quintessential Roman dish, it is oftentimes disputed among chefs and historians because there isn't one set recipe for it.

As the youngest of the four recipes, the dish first makes its first appearances in cookbooks in the 1950s and 1960s. The publication explains how the culinary world is riddled with different versions of the recipes ranging from using whole eggs to using pancetta to using Parmigiano Reggiano. What does this mean for those getting ready to sit down at a local Roman trattoria? Not only will you be getting something iconically Italian, but you'll also be getting something that is unique to that restaurant, as they'd probably be using their own recipe.