I collect regional cookbooks. I read them like novels – drooling over recipes. These cookbooks are my window to the gastronomic world and the next best thing to travel. I’ve been selfish though. I’ve just come to realization that I have a perfectly good family sitting here waiting to be experimented on with the recipes I’ve been dreaming of making. What I’ve been reading and soaking in can be used as a learning vehicle for my family to understand along with me the world of food and food culture. Our sense of culture lately, especially this summer, has been limited to barbeque get togethers. I’m thinking how many cookouts have we been to this summer where we just ate tasty food without giving any thought about its significance? Food, and wine for that matter, are a catalyst for connection not just to each other but to a world outside of our own.
So with this important revelation in mind, I opened one of my many cookbooks and picked a simple uncomplicated recipe; Fettuccini with Alfredo Sauce. And this past weekend I took my family to Italy, figuratively. Lazio, Italy; the birthplace of Spaghetti alla Carbonara and white trebbiano based wines. My goal was to have a different conversation at our dinner table instead of the usual stuff we talk about.
Lazio whose capital city is Rome, is bordered by Umbria and Tuscany to the north and Campania to the south. It’s a world unto itself a far a wine is concerned; with its neutral white wines made primarily from clones of trebbiano and malvasia; the famous sangiovese is not in the picture here. Instead the reds wines of this region are made from cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The cuisine of Lazio is influenced by its borders with a food culture centered around simplicity. They originated Trattoria style where hearty lamb, pork, bread, cheese, and olive oil play the same role now as it did during the ancient roman era. These ingredients are secondary as fresh vegetables are in the forefront of their daily diet. The Artichoke is the vegetable of choice for Lazio. Braised or fried it’s the star in most of their frittatas and pasta dishes. Lazio is also a large producer of the sharp, hard, and slightly salty Pecorino Romano cheese, an American favorite. And yes pasta! Glorious pasta can’t be forgotten; topped with vegetables or creamy sauces.
The recipe I chose was simple and flavorful and something we had had before probably at a restaurant. The difference is we learned more about its origins and that made the dish more meaningful. From our meal, my family came away with not only learning about Lazio but a deeper understanding that regional foods have significance and when we eat we should be mindful of their culture and the history behind the culture. We are all excited about the adventures in food ahead of us.
Corndog….I wonder what we can learn from the corndog?
Recipe for Alfredo Sauce – from Mario Batali
- 6 tablespoons BUTTER
- 1 cup HEAVY CREAM
- 1/4 cup PASTA COOKING WATER
- 1/2 cup grated PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO CHEESE
- 1 pound of cooked FETTUCCINE PASTA (cooked)
In a medium-large sauté pan, melt the butter over low heat. When the foam subsides, increase the heat to high, add the cream, and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to a simmer. When the pasta is almost done cooking, add 1/4 cup of pasta water to the butter-cream mixture to thin slightly.
Add to cooked pasta, stir to coat with sauce, then mix in 1/4 cup of Parmigiano. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on each of the for portions before serving.
To experience the full effect of this regional dish, I would have it with the signature wine of the region; Frascati DOC/DOCG. Francati is a Roman favorite made from the malvasia and trebbiano grapes. These wines display perfumed floral and golden apple aromas and tastes of peaches interwoven with almonds. A beautiful authentic accompaniment to a creamy savory dish.