Eating Rome {A Cookbook Review + Recipe)

I have been following Elizabeth Minchilli's blog for quite awhile now. It's always the perfect site to visit when I want a virtual moment in Rome.

About this time four years ago, I was reluctantly planning my first trip to Rome, a city which held very little appeal for me. I assumed it was just another big European city with little or no charm.

Mark has been several times, and studied there for a semester in college. He was so excited that we were going; he couldn't wait to show me his Rome, and relive his memories. He knew I wasn't over-the-moon about it, but he was confident I would like it.

Beyond liking it, I loved it - more than I ever dreamed!

When I was offered an I opportunity to review Elizabeth Minchilli's new book, Eating Rome, I didn't even think twice. I knew her writing from a book we bought when considering a move to Italy: Restoring a Home in Italy.

I start my review by saying that this book, Eating Rome, while a guide for Rome, is an excellent read for anyone considering their first - or fourth or tenth Italy trip. More important to me than the recipes and beautiful photos is her guide to being there, and her advice is easily applicable to most places in Italy.

The book contains all the basics: How and when to order coffee, and why they do it that way. How to pay for it and then order. Why you knock it back standing at the counter, and don't take it to a table. And the cardinal rule: never order cappuccino (or other dairy-laden coffee drinks) after noon.

She warns us never to eat on the streets unless: (a) you are seated at a caffè table; (b) you just bought a slice of pizza bianco; or (c) you have a gelato (cone or cup) in hand.

The book includes what Italians eat (or don't eat) for breakfast, behavior in trattorie, how to stock your pantry like a Roman, and how to shop in the markets. (And why the phrase  «Non toccare!» - Don't touch! - is important to know.)

Some of her lessons I learned on my own, not knowing I was even learning lessons. To me, it is instinct that when I find a fruttivendolo (fruit and vegetable seller) whom I like - whether in Rome or Tucson - I return daily/weekly to forge a relationship, and would never "cheat" on her/him unless THEY suggest I go elsewhere for something they dont have. It's true - in the market and even restaurants. Mark had told me that if you return, you honor them with your patronage, and your service and produce will only get better.

"Our" fruit and vegetable dealer at the Campo dei Fiori.
It is a fun book to read and, with every page, I am transported to my one, all-too-short week in the Eternal City.

Okay... on to the recipes. Having discovered I love Roman cuisine, I want to make all the recipes in this book. Well, most of them anyway. There are some ingredients that will be hard to come by in Tucson. Lamb's pluck, for instance - the lung, liver, and heart of the lamb - will not be readily available at Trader Joe's.

As of this post, I have already made three recipes from this book: the tagliolini al limone; osso buco (Roman-style); and her Amor Polenta, a breakfast cake. Several of her recipes are already in my regular repertoire of Roman pasta dishes - spaghetti alla Carbonara, spaghetti cacio e pepe, and orecchiette con cima di rape. Her recipes are simple, elegantly presented, and - above all - authentic. A note to bakers: she gives both gram and cup measures for her baked goods. I tested both measurements and found they were not always eye-to-eye. I used my instincts when deciding which measurement to follow.

On the subject of pasta, Minchilli tells us she doesn't actually make her own. If she needs fresh, she can find it in her neighborhood. Lucky her! Besides, she tells us, most iconic Roman dishes call for dried pastas. She tells us that, for Carbonara and cacio e pepe, she prefers to use penne or rigatoni; my sources for traditional Roman cuisine indicate spaghetti when making these two dishes. Really, you can use any form of pasta you like... just don't tell Nonna!

My one wish for the book? More photos - of the food and, of course, life in Rome. And that just makes me want to go back all the more.

Eating Rome is a delightful, beautiful, helpful, and deliciously fresh memoir of an expat living abroad. I finished the book feeling that I had just had gelato with Minchilli. Maybe, someday, I will.

Eating Rome, published this month (April 2015) by St. Martin's Griffin, is available on Amazon. I was sent a review copy by the publisher for my honest opinion of the book.

~ David

Tagliolini al Limone
Elizabeth Minchilli, Eating Rome

6 tablespoons (80 grams) unsalted butter
finely grated zest of 2 large untreated lemons
1 pound (500 grams) fresh tagliolini (recipe follows)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter in a sauté pan large enough to hold the cooked pasta. Add the lemon zest and heat for 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook just until it is almost done; the pasta will continue to cook as you dress it.

Place the pan with the butter back on the heat and, using tongs, lift the pasta out of the water and into the pan with the butter. Stir to combine and gradually add the heavy cream, letting it thicken slightly. If it gets too thick, use a bit of the pasta water to thin it out. Serve in heated bowls, topped with parsley.

Serves 4.

Homemade Pasta 
(my own recipe)

If you cant find fresh pasta for sale, it is easy enough to make. This recipe makes enough for 4 as a main course, and 8 as a first course. For todays post, I made a half batch to serve 2 or 4.

2 cups "00" flour, plus extra as needed
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Place flour on the counter and make a well in the center. Crack in the eggs and, using a fork, beat the eggs as if making scrambled eggs. Little by little, beat in the "wall of flour" until you have a very sticky dough. At this point, abandon the fork and use your hands to finish. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a firm but pliable dough. Knead for several minutes, then wrap in plastic wrap and let sit for 20-30 minutes. This resting period allows for the gluten to develop.

When ready to roll, cut the ball of dough into 4 pieces. You will notice that the dough is moister after resting. Take one piece and re-wrap the others until you are ready to use them. Flatten the piece into a squarish shape. Dust lightly with flour. Roll the piece through the rollers of a pasta machine at its widest setting. Fold in thirds and roll again at the same setting. Fold in half and roll one more time at the widest setting, feeding the fold end into the rollers first. Change the setting on the machine to one setting narrower. Roll the pasta through. Dust with flour whenever necessary. Continue rolling, making the setting narrower each time until you are at the second-to-last setting. Set your strip of pasta onto a floured board. Repeat this process for the remaining three pieces of dough.

Change to the rollers for cutting the pasta, and cut all four pieces of dough into tagliolini. Dust them with flour and set them on the floured counter to dry for a few minutes. I tend to "tousle" them now and then to make sure they aren't sticking to one another.

This pasta cooks in about 3 minutes.

"Rome will remain eternally within me."
(It should be rimarrai... I love typos in graffiti!)


  1. Ah Rome! Italy really. I could go there every single year David. One of my favorite countries in the world by far. What they do to the most humble ingredients turning them into addictive dishes! Love lemon in my pasta. Wonderful review.

    1. I know. Paula. We are constantly (playfully) battling with each other every time we plan a trip, as we always want to return to Italy, yet are trying to see other parts of the world... like Buenos Aires, for example!

      Glad the pasta looks good - so simple and flavorful.

  2. A fantastic Pasta dish and wonderful pics that reminded me so much of the years we spent in Rome.
    I think it's one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but it needs to be discovered bit by bit and it takes time until Rome conquers you - but then- this is a place you will never forget.

    1. Daniela - Rome got to my heart almost immediately - it made me rather cross with myself for having avoided it because people said it was "just another big city." That couldn't be further from the truth! How lucky you were to live there!

  3. There's something about Rome that has always appealed to me. I've only been once (and not long enough to get the hang of it) but to me it has that big,sprawling, spread out feeling (much like my home town of Los Angeles). I'm sure it's filled with all sorts of unique and separate neighborhoods with their own personalities (just like LA). I wish I could explore them all. GREG

    1. You owe yourself another trip, Greg. There are so many unique neighborhoods, like LA, and each one so incredibly charming. I can't wait to go back myself.

  4. Rome is one place I have not yet visited... do love the photos you've shared here, David. And your approach to book reviews. Thank you for the introduction to Elizabeth and her work. Just lovely.

    1. Thanks, Liz! I hope you and Peter can plan a trip to Rome someday. I know you will love it.

  5. I might buy a pasta machine yet! You make it look so easy. This recipe looks very good and the book sounds exactly like one I would like to curl up with, in a big chair, with a latte--before noon! I might buy the book, too! Thanks for a very interesting review and a yummy recipe!

    1. I can't believe I haven't pushed you into buying a pasta machine yet. But this week, I am filming making a pasta dough and form that requires no machine. Maybe you will need to practice on that first? (And, Susan - oddly, you were with me the first time I made it!)

  6. Dear David, lovely book review and a fabulous reminder of how wonderful Italy is. Although I have never had the pleasure of visiting Rome, I have been to Italy many times - big sigh - it is time to visit again soon!
    Liebe Grüsse an dich und Mark,

    1. Andrea - I wish we all had the time to visit the wonderful places to which our hearts tell us to go. Maybe we just all need to be patient. Yes, a big sigh. David

  7. Funny how certain places, especially when they are loved by all, hold less appeal for us than others... as an adopted Milanese, and because of the rivalry between the two cities, I sometimes tend to feel underwhelmed about Rome too, but as soon as get there I am newly astounded by its beauty and wonder how I ever could have forgotten!

    1. It is really interesting to have that perspective form another living in Italy. I have never seen the rivalry between Rome and Milan, but it makes so much sense. The funny thing is that I had heard the same about Milan - not to both going as it is just a big city. I loved it, too. We all see things so differently...

  8. You know, I wasn't really captured the first time we went to Rome. The second time, however, I fell in love with it. Can't wait to go back.

    Seeing all this pasta making is making me want to get the pasta roller out. I need to make more of an effort to make pasta, rather than buy it. There's no comparison!

    1. Me, too, John. And I hope it is soon for both of us.

      I love making homemade pasta. Partly, there is something therapeutic about doing it even after work. But, as you say, other part is the quality - no comparison.

  9. This adorable post made us virtually travel through the beautiful Rome....such spectacular clicks...and what a greatly made homemade pasta...lovely,simple and absolutely yummy,thanks:-)

    1. Thank you, Swikruti and Rakesh! Do you make pasta? What sauces do you use? I am always curious how certain meals are adapted worldwide!

    2. Hi David,we love making our pasta...since we don't consume eggs...they are given a miss...we usually make pasta out of semolina+flour and at times with plain flour....ahhhh the sauces...we love an alfredo or arrabbiata sauce as much as our homely curried TVP soy granules sauce...thanks so much...we will be giving your delicious hazelnut-chocolate a try some time soon....it makes us hungry every single time we visit your blog :-)

    3. Arrabiata and Alfredo are definitely favorites of mine, too! And it is funny you should mention semolina pasta. I am making my first video this morning for Cocoa & Lavender - and it is how to make semolina pasta! I love it, too, because it dies and freezes so well, and you can make shapes that don't require a pasta machine. Until today, I had not head of TVP soy granules. I would love to know how you make that curried sauce - it sounds delicious! I make a sauce based on Ottolenghi's - with a spiced saffron butter. There are so many fun things to do with pasta!

  10. i've been tast hundreds kind of pasta before, but never any sort of pasta al limone before, tempting to try!!!
    Dedy@Dentist Chef

  11. D, that pasta looks killer yummy. I see now why the Italians can eat it just with a bit of salt, olive oil and garlic.
    That's exactly how I'd eat that plate of fettuccine!

    Have a great w/end! xo

    1. Haha, Colette - luckily, the Italians make lots of good pastas without the garlic for vampires, like me! Thanks for your sweet comment! xo


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