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Lucy Waverman makes pasta carbonara with quail on January 13, 2011. (Jennifer Roberts for The Globe and Mail/Jennifer Roberts for The Globe and Mail)
Lucy Waverman makes pasta carbonara with quail on January 13, 2011. (Jennifer Roberts for The Globe and Mail/Jennifer Roberts for The Globe and Mail)

When not in Rome, you can still enjoy its flavours Add to ...

In Italy, pasta is treated as the main ingredient. The pasta is never drowned in sauce - rather there's a balance between the two. All pasta, including fresh, is cooked al dente, which makes a great difference to the texture of the dish. I was recently in Rome and had some incredible pastas with appealing combinations, including orecchiette with swordfish, arugula and lemon, tagliatelle with bottarga and breadcrumbs, and tonarelli (square spaghetti) with artichokes and ricotta salata - not a tomato sauce among them. Add some Roman flair to your cooking by experimenting with different shapes of imported Italian pasta or some of the wonderful red fife whole wheat pasta available at farmers' markets.

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PASTA CARBONARA

Made with pancetta, eggs, cheese and cream, carbonara is soaked in tradition. Young chefs, such as Francesco Apreda at the stunning Imago restaurant in the Hassler hotel (the best meal we had in Rome), are putting their own spin on this quintessential Roman dish. I adapted this recipe from the dish he made for us with quail and quail eggs. If you can find boned quail, use 12 ounces finely chopped (instead of the chicken) and the yolks of 12 quail eggs. Pecorino Romano is a sheep's milk cheese with a satisfyingly salty edge that is traditionally Roman.

Ingredients

Ragu:

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup finely chopped celery

¼ cup finely chopped carrot

¼ cup finely chopped red onion

12 ounces (375 grams) ground dark-meat chicken

1 bay leaf

1 branch Italian parsley

Pinch dry thyme

2 tablespoons white wine

¾ cup chicken stock

Salt and freshly ground pepper

To Finish:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2/3 cup diced bacon or pancetta

4 egg yolks

2 ounces (60 grams) grated Pecorino Romano cheese

3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pound (500 grams) fusilli pasta

Method

Heat oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat. Add celery, carrot and red onion and sauté gently for 10 minutes or until vegetables are soft and lightly browned. Turn heat to medium-high, add chicken, bay leaf, parsley and thyme and cook for 3 minutes, stirring, or until chicken is lightly browned.

Add white wine and cook for 2 minutes or until wine has almost completely evaporated. Add half a cup chicken stock and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, adding more stock as needed, until chicken is cooked through and still slightly saucy. Discard bay leaf and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reserve.

Heat oil in a separate frying pan over medium heat. Add bacon and sauté for 8 minutes or until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp. Remove from pan using a slotted spoon and blot on paper towels. Reserve.

Combine egg yolks, pecorino, bacon, parsley and pepper in a large bowl and set aside.

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, reserving about half a cup of the cooking water. (Pasta water gives substance to sauces, making them a little creamier. It's a good addition to most pasta dishes.)

Combine a quarter cup of the cooking water with egg yolk mixture and quickly toss the hot pasta, stirring to coat. If necessary, add more cooking water to make the sauce even more creamy. Add reserved ragu, toss and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4.

ZAC'S SPAGHETTI WITH OLIVE OIL AND CHILIES

Hostaria Romana is an old-fashioned Roman trattoria. The waiters are old pros doling out lavish bowls of antipasti with irreverence and wit. The pastas are served in the bowl that they are mixed in (called originale) and if two of you order the same pasta, they give the woman the bowl and the man a soup plate, which goes to show that Italians really do love women.

Ingredients

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

½ to 1 teaspoon chili flakes

8 ounces (250 grams) spaghetti

Salt and freshly ground pepper

¼ cup finely chopped parsley

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Method

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and chili flakes and cook slowly for 3 to 5 minutes or until garlic is very soft. Cook pasta in a large pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, reserving about a quarter cup of the cooking water.

Toss pasta with flavoured olive oil in skillet and add 2 tablespoons or more of cooking water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and grated cheese and serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a first course.

PASTA WITH CLAMS

Eric Reguly, the European business correspondent for The Globe and Mail, invited us for dinner in Rome. He lived in Rome as a boy and is based there now, and loves all forms of Roman cooking. Small Manila clams or New Zealand clams are less sandy than littleneck clams. In Italy, no cheese is ever served with seafood. The tomato confit garnish is optional.

Ingredients

Tomato Confit:

2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half and seeded

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Pasta:

1 pound (500 grams) linguine

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 cup white wine

1 teaspoon hot chili flakes

3 pounds (1.5 kilograms) Manila clams

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Method

Preheat oven to 350F.

Toss cherry tomatoes with olive oil and salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet, cut side up. Bake for 25 minutes or until semi-dried. Set aside.

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, reserving about half a cup of the cooking water.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add wine and chilies and bring to boil. Add clams and steam until they open, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir reserved roasted cherry tomatoes into clam sauce. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed.

Add cooked pasta to sauce and toss together, adding pasta cooking water if needed. Garnish with parsley and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Serves 4.

Follow on Twitter: @lucywaverman

 

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