Roman recipes: introduction

Pane casareccio: Italian bread Pane Casareccio: Homemade Italian Bread

Rome is an ideal starting point for a first encounter with Italian food.

Each area of Italy has its own culinary specialities, which have evolved through the centuries depending on the needs of the local population and the availability of produce (Italy's long, narrow shape and position at the heart of the Mediterranean mean that the climate is quite different in the north and south. The result is a wide variety of crops grown along the length of the peninsular) Not only Rome's political position as capital of Italy, but also her geographical position in the centre of the country means that the local cuisine bears influences from all over.

The Italian meal

There are four main courses in the Italian meal, although people do not always have all four. The courses are antipasti, the starter; primo, the first course (usually pasta, risotto or a soup); secondo, the meat or fish dish (served with or without vegetables); and dolce, the sweet course, followed by coffee and perhaps a glass of grappa, fernet or another spirit.

Pasta

The easiest way to ruin a pasta dish is to overcook the pasta itself. The pasta should still be a little firm to the bite - al dente, although exactly how firm depends on your own personal taste. Use plenty of water and add the pasta when it's already boiling. The water should be lightly salted but not oiled - a good stir after adding the pasta, followed by the movement of the boiling water should be enough to stop it from sticking.