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When in Rome….

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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).

Buon appetito!

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About Fred De Masi