An Easy Roman Dinner Party
Katie Parla and Kristina Gill’s Tasting Rome cookbook is more than a collection of Italian recipes—it’s an exhaustively researched, gorgeously photographed love letter to the expats’ adopted city. You might recognize Kristina’s voice from DesignSponge, where she’s the food and drink editor; it’s her stunning photographs—of both the dishes and some quintessentially Roman scenery—that make the book coffee-table-worthy. Katie, a food and travel writer, has lived in the Eternal City for more than a decade, documenting her experience through travel and food writing (she also happens to be a certified sommelier). Tasting Rome illustrates how Roman cuisine is specifically influenced by the region, and how the city’s unique history and culture leave their mark on classic dishes like cacio e pepe, castagnole, and fried zucchini blossoms. Below, they share a few favorite, blessedly easy, recipes in the form of a throw-it-together menu that’s perfect for a balmy, late-summer night.
From mid-June through early September, the temperatures in Rome soar, and as much as we like being in the kitchen preparing a dinner party, the reality is, most Roman dwellings aren’t air conditioned. So, when we want to entertain guests but also want to arrive at the table fresh and presentable, we lean on the city’s classic summer dishes. We love cazzimperio (crudité) for its celebratory showcasing of seasonal produce, while amatriciana estiva lets us indulge in a favorite pasta course without heaps of rendered pork fat! Meanwhile pollo alla romana is one of those dishes you can prepare in a big batch and serve throughout the week—it’s a crowd pleaser at parties, as well as at the nightly lunch or dinner table—and sorbetto di pesche e vino is a fresh and palate-cleansing sorbet that riffs on the old-school dessert of fresh peaches macerated in white wine. – Katie Parla
Cazzimperio (also known as pinzimonio, or crudités) pretty much sums up Rome’s relationship with raw vegetables. Elsewhere, you might be served carrot sticks or celery stalks with a thick, creamy dipping sauce. Not in Rome. Here, the only accompaniment is a good, green olive oil from nearby groves. Cazzimperio is best enjoyed with extra-virgin olive oil from the Sabina, an area in northern Lazio known for its sensational oils, but you can substitute any good-quality unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil with rich flavor and a clean finish.
Pollo alla romana is a dish long associated with Ferragosto, the August 15 holiday that celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Local chefs and home cooks alike now serve it all summer long when temperatures rise and they want to make food they can prepare in the relatively cooler mornings and serve lukewarm at lunchtime. For a more delicious final product, season the chicken with salt at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours before cooking. In Rome, it is common to use a mixture of red and yellow bell peppers. This color motif is popular, also seen in the colors of the city flag and AS Roma, one of Rome’s two professional soccer teams.
Amatriciana estiva, or summer amatriciana, is a phrase that has been popping up on trattoria menus all over town for a few years now. Some claim their version of the dish is lighter than the classic because they use less guanciale or drain off some of the rendered fat. Others don’t reduce the fat at all, and just replace canned tomatoes with seasonal summer ones. We like a version somewhere between the two, and recommend using thin pieces of guanciale and, of course, incorporating fresh summer tomatoes instead of canned.
Every roman gelato shop offers classics like pistacchio, cioccolato, nocciola, and fragola, but only one boozy flavor—zabaione, an egg yolk and Marsala wine custard—makes the list of standards. Recently, though, at a small but growing number of artisanal gelaterie, the selection has received a spirited makeover. At places like Il Gelato di Claudio Torcè, Fatamorgana, Otaleg, and Carapina, alcohol-based flavors are becoming increasingly common. These refreshing and boozy sweets are fairly easy to reproduce at home. This recipe, which is technically a sorbet due to the absence of dairy, is inspired by a common summer dessert, pesche al vino, in which a peeled peach marinates in wine. The sorbet mixture must rest for at least 6 hours in the refrigerator before churning.
Reprinted from Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City. Copyright © 2016 by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Kristina Gill. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.