No, no, no, before any Romans come out to throw stones at me, this is not a traditional recipe. It is my interpretation of typical Roman ingredients which turned out to be truly yummy: Guanciale, romanesco, pecorino romano are real milestones of the roman kitchen – mind you, not the only ones; but they really are everywhere.
Once you taste guanciale, you would understand why it is used in so many dishes. Do you like bacon? Wait till you have eaten guanciale. It is not smoked but rubbed with a delicious cure and is so much more delicate than bacon or pancetta or speck. (Though of course you could substitute it with these if you don’t live in Italy.) Since we started our scouting visits to Rome last year to check out so many things before really moving down, I have been thinking about guanciale. Actually, I even dreamt about it. There, I said it. It was in December that I made a note in my cellphone while going through the mercato Trionfale (on Andrea Doria): rigatoni, guanciale, romanesco, pecorino romano, onions, raisins, almonds, white wine (sweet?).
After weeks (months?) of being first without an apartment, then without a kitchen, this week I finally made the dish I had been thinking about for months. And it was even better than I imagined. Sitting in front of the fire, along with a glass of full bodied white wine, this pasta dish hits all the right spots, savory and hearty, with a mellow and sweet note from the caramelized onions and moscato soaked raisins. Comfort food for a chilly night at the end of winter here in Rome, though I am sure it will taste just as well where you are sitting right now! Well, except maybe in Cebu, Philippines (hi!), where I think is summer right now!
Pasta alla Romana
prep: 15 mins
cook: ca. 20 mins
rigatoni, 500g, or other short pasta
romanesco, 1, or broccoli
guanciale, 100g, or pancetta/bacon, in one thick slice
onions, 3 medium sized
pecorino romano, 50g, or other hard, flavorful sheep milk cheese
almonds, handful, blanched and slivered
sweet white wine, 1 cup
Bring a big pot of water (at least 5 liters/quarts) to boil, add salt after it boils.
Soak the raisins in the sweet white wine. Cut the onions in half-slices and roast them over a medium-low heat in a heavy pan with little olive oil. You want to do this slowly so that the onions turn brown slowly and caramelize during the process. Cut the romanesco into its florets. Cut the guanciale into strips. Add the guanciale to the onions halfway through. Add the raisins and the soaking wine to the pan near the end.
Throw the pasta and the romanesco florets into the boiling salt water and cook till al dente, firm to the bite. With rigatoni, this happens about the same time for the pasta and the romanesco, after around 10 mins. Drain and mix gently with the onion-guanciale mixture in the pan. Divide between 4 serving dishes. Add the almond slivers and freshly grated pecorino romano on the individual servings.