I took a special trip to Rome last May, for a very particular purpose: I had to initiate a couple of friends, who have been living in Rome for almost 10 years, to the real, unique and exceptional rustic Roman food. Why this urge? Well, these friends are co-founders of our “gastronauts society” and are foodoholics like me. Considering that they are soon to leave Rome, I could not accept the fact that they had never tasted our fantastic delicacies.
So, what am I talking about? Simple: “pajata”, “coda alla vaccinara”, “animele”, “coratella” and similar things. These items would be described by a vast majority of the earth’s population as “offal”. Let’s take these one by one:
What is pajata? Looking at Wikipedia’s entry can be scary
“[...] Pajata is the term for the intestines of an “un-weaned” calf, i.e., only fed on its mother’s milk. The intestines are cleaned and skinned, but the Chyme is left inside. Then the intestine is cut in pieces 20 – 25 cm long, which are bond together with white thread, forming rings. When cooked, the combination of heat and the enzyme rennet in the intestines coagulates the chyme and creates a sort of thick, creamy, cheese-like sauce [...]“. I can assure you that it is DELICIOUS!!!
Considering the whole issue with cows and veals and mad-cow disease, real “pajata” has been banned since the early 90s. Instead of calves, Romans have now switched to un-weaned lambs. Anyway, according to the timeless tradition, we had the delicacy served in a tomato sauce with pecorino and rigatoni (see photo).
Next, my guests had another CLASSIC Roman dish:
Coda alla vaccinara
This is a more common animal part and less “yucky” for many people. It’s a stew of ox-tail, celery, tomato, ham, bacon and many herbs. The dish is cooked for hours, until all the meat is tender and falling off the tail bones. A typical menu would consist of preparing such a stew and, once ready, use part of the tomato sauce to season a “primo” of pasta and use the rest a the meat “secondo”. Sorry, I have no picture of this dish.
While my friends were inhaling their ox-tail, I was inhaling my own plate of roman “delicacies”. The restaurant had its own name for it, but I can clearly say that it was a mix of
Animelle and Coratella
What are these? Sit down, take a breath and get ready. Look at the picture. See anything familiar? Not, unless you took anatomy in college. This dish consists of grilled offal: hearts, kidneys, livers, lungs, pajata. Not for the faint hearted. Hard-core stuff, but sooooo tastylicious. As someone once said, “ya cannae not die stoopid”… got taste it all, then decide
So that was the evening. My friends were very positively impressed and gave the “foodgasm!” stamp to the dinner. And the wine: we washed the whole thing down with a couple of bottles of this guy (see photo). Very nice, very nice indeed.
If you would like to learn more about Roman food, have a look at the book I linked, as it is very well written and gives a nice cultural and historical overview of the various elements of Roman gastronomy (I have no competing interests, I am not the author, I gain no benefit from linking this book).