In my continuing search to understand what exactly makes up Italian food, I’ve come to the region of Lazio. We’ll, not so much as “come to” as “read as much as I could get my grubby little hands upon”.
This is the second region of Italy that I’ve researched, and I’ve already understood a few things about Italian cuisine. Yes, yes, a lot of it is peasant food (a fact that can be attributed to many cuisines). But more amazing to me is how each region can have a clear difference in what they eat, even when the regions are smack up against each other. Case in point:
We discussed earlier that Tuscany is a beef region. The best known dish of Florence is Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Beef of Florence). Yet, 170 miles down the road in Rome, Romans take pride in their Porchetta (spit roasted pig), Abbacchio (roasted milk-fed lamb) and Saltimbocca (veal, sage, and prosciutto). For comparison, the distance between Florence and Rome is equivalent to the distance between Pittsburgh and Washington D.C. And we know how different their cuisines are, right (think keilbasa vs. Crab Cakes)?
Okay, perhaps that sort of proves my point. All regions have their specialties, and the one thing that I want to make clear: Italian food is not just different types of pasta with different kinds of tomato sauces. I think I can stop bringing that up, right?
When thinking about Italian food, remember their influences: Etruscan cuisine, Greek Cuisine, and to a lesser extent, Saracen Cuisine. Lazio (home of Rome) falls smack dab into the Etruscan category. I think there’s no better proof of this than Gnocchi alla Romana. Unlike the Gnocchi that we americans have come to know and love, Gnocchi alla Romana is not made with potatoes. Rather it’s key ingredient is semolina flour. Boiled in milk and mixed with Parmesan Cheese and beaten eggs, this recipe is a direct decendant of the polentas that the Etruscans made popular back in the day.
There are many ingredients, dishes and drinks that I want to explore while focusing on Lazio. Pecorino Cheese is certainly on the list, as are artichokes. I’m looking forward to drinking Sambuca while chomping on coffee beans.
But honestly? I’m keen on researching a fish sauce that may no longer be able to be reproduced. Garum was used in ancient Rome, and it was supposedly as ubiquitous then as ketchup is today. I’m thinking about making some, which will completely and thoroughly ruin any chances of me getting my security deposit back on my apartment.