Typical Roman cuisine: evolution, iconic dishes and the role of pinsa

Roman cuisine, the jewel of our gastronomic tradition, is a genuine pride for all compatriots. The Roman culinary tradition, which is based on the simplicity and authenticity of ingredients of peasant origin, has evolved greatly over the centuries as a result of regional contaminations and influences from adjacent areas, but it has never lost its original traits of taste and simplicity. These features, which we find in all the typical products of the area, are today protected from excessive contamination, and safeguarded against threats that could distort an extraordinarily charming history. 

Typical Roman cuisine, a millennial history

The history of typical Roman cuisine has its roots in the era of ancient Rome, when the diet was based on simple ingredients such as cheeses, legumes, cereals and, of course, fruit. Luckily, we have at our disposal valuable records from that time, particularly Apicius' De re coquinaria, which is the most famous cookbook of antiquity (1st century AD). Curiously, and also somewhat at odds with the ideal of simple peasant cuisine, Apicius' work is aimed at the upper classes and confirms the existence, even at the time, of fervent experimentation and creativity. Indeed, the text describes dishes based on ingredients such as ostrich and wild pigeon, accompanied by a wide variety of sauces.
Typical Roman cuisine has undergone a constant process of development and evolution over the centuries. In the Middle Ages, for example, barbarian influences brought changes in tastes, and the use of spices became more widespread, while the Renaissance brought some attention to more exotic ingredients. But going into specifics, focusing on the history of Rome, there were (at least) two determining factors in the development of its gastronomic tradition: the expansion of the Jewish community, which occurred in the early 1500s, and, in a much more recent era (1891), the opening of the Testaccio slaughterhouse
The influence of Jewish and Spanish cuisine on traditional Roman cuisine led to a very interesting mix of local ingredients and imported cooking techniques, from which emerged authentic gems such as artichokes alla giudia, but there was also an intensified use of offal, olive oil for frying, and many other virtuous contaminations. In the late 1800s, however, the inauguration of the Testaccio slaughterhouse gave a new twist to traditional Roman cuisine by marking the spread of the quinto quarto (literally "fifth quarter"), which includes offal such as tripe, oxtail stew, and sweetbreads, and gave rise to memorable and iconic dishes.
Turning now to the present day, it has been recorded for at least a decade a rediscovery of culinary traditions, with greater attention to local ingredients, and many innovative efforts by chefs mixing tradition and modernity. A fascinating chapter full of experimentation is being written on this very difficult balance. 

Some iconic dishes of traditional Roman cuisine

There are dozens of dishes that mark the typical Roman cuisine all over the world. And, it may sound as a paradox, we do not devote much space to them, because they are so well known that we could hardly say anything new or tantalizing. A small summary, however, is essential. 

Spaghetti alla carbonara

A timeless classic and a cornerstone of Roman gastronomic tradition. Its basic recipe calls for eggs, guanciale, pecorino romano cheese and black pepper. The choice of ingredients is debated among enthusiasts, but the secret is undoubtedly balance and mastery in combining al dente pasta with the creaminess of the sauce.

Tonnarelli cacio e pepe

Pasta cacio e pepe is a demonstration of how perfect simplicity can be. Just two ingredients, pecorino romano cheese and black pepper, create an explosion of flavours that pays homage to the city's culinary tradition.

Bucatini all'amatriciana

Originally from Amatrice, in the province of Rieti, it is part of the traditional rural foods of Lazio since the town only passed from Lazio to Abruzzo in 1927. It is an ode to robust and simple flavours and one of the most celebrated dishes of central Italy. There are several variations of it, but the staples are guanciale, tomato, pecorino romano cheese and black pepper. 

Coda alla vaccinara

It dates back to the city's paesant roots and is a stew of oxtail (queen of the fifth quarter) cooked with tomato, onion, carrot, celery and black pepper. This dish represents the Roman ability to transform poor ingredients into something extraordinary.


It is the icon of street food. Supplì are oval rice croquettes filled with mozzarella cheese and tomato/meat sauce and fried in oil. The crispy crust and melted heart make them an irresistible snack.

Abbacchio alla romana

Abbacchio cooked Roman style shows the local fondness for lamb. Cooked with garlic, rosemary, white wine, pepper and broth, this dish reflects the city's love of strong flavours.

Roman-style puntarelle

For vegetable lovers, Roman-style puntarelle are a must. They are seasoned with anchovies, garlic and olive oil, remain slightly bitter and are a popular side dish in Roman cuisine.

Artichoke alla giudia

Originating in the Roman Jewish tradition, this dish is prepared with artichoke hearts that are gently crushed and then fried to a crispy crust. The result is a combination of textures and flavours. 
Pinsa in the Roman culinary tradition
It is certainly not our intention to put pinsa on the same level as dishes of a centuries-old tradition such as carbonara or coda alla vaccinara. Nor do we claim that pinsa is a product derived from the remote (and glorious) past of this land. 
It is, however, true that even a modern dish, born in 2001 from an intuition of Corrado Di Marco, can gradually make its way into an established tradition and enter among the typical dishes of the territory. We live in a globalized world, and while this opens enormous opportunities for those who produce, sell and distribute, it is much more difficult than it used to be to tie a product to a territory, making it its voice in Italy and in the world.
So, with pinsa our ambition is just that: to respect the role of the iconic products of our land and to work hard to build a place for pinsa as well, focusing above all on its innovative character and its ability to mix taste, lightness and digestibility. The present is proving us right, and we are already working on the future.

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