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Boast of Roman traditional food: Porchetta

Roman porchetta: the original recipe

Traditionally, porchetta is a nose to the tail affair, in which a whole pig is deboned and roasted on a spit. This was probably not the most practical option for those hoping for a taste of Rome closer to home.

Ingredients

  • A rectangular piece of boneless pork belly and a piece of pork loin of roughly the right size to be rolled up inside, skin left on (how much each piece weighs depends on the shape, but aim for a total weight of about 3.5-4kg)
  • 50g garlic, crushed (about 10 cloves)
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds, toasted
  • 1 tsp dried chili flakes, toasted
  • 30g sea salt flakes
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp lard or olive oil, at room temperature
  • 200ml white wine (optional)
  • Rolls, to serve

Preparation

Combine the seasoning ingredients into a smooth paste. Place the pork belly on a clean, flat surface, score the flesh, then rub the paste into the meat with your hands. Sit the loin long-side parallel to the shorter side of the belly, and then roll up tightly.
Tie up tightly with butcher’s string at about 5cm intervals, and leave to sit, uncovered in the fridge, for at least 8 hours. Bring back to room temperature before cooking.
Heat the oven to 160°C. Pat the meat as dry as possible with kitchen paper and put on a rack in a roasting tray. Roast for 4 hours, then turn the oven up as high as it will go and roast for another 30 minutes, or until the crackling is golden brown (keep an eye on it).
Remove from the oven and allow to rest, uncovered for 30 minutes. If you’re making gravy, remove the meat and rack from the tray and skim off the fat. Return the rest of the juices to the pan along with the wine and put on medium heat. Stir well and season to taste.
Carve the pork into slices. Stuff into rolls and drizzle with gravy, if using.

Food tips: the tradition of rice balls in Rome

The tradition of rice balls (supplì) in Rome

If you are looking for an unforgettable risotto in Rome, you will not have an easy life. The Romans, as the Neapolitans and the southerners, were used to use rice in case of disturbances gastric and intestinal. In fact, even the ancient Romans considered rice like medicine.
Rice was long linked to the role of medicine even when the Aragonese dynasty introduced the cultivation in Salerno in the fifteenth century. For long-time Salerno had the reputation for best rice production until the cultivation passed in Lombardy due to the favorable environmental conditions.
Italy then split into two, the Northern regions related to the use of rice and the Southern ones related to the pasta. In Rome we call the famous rice balls “supplì, in Naples “sartù, in Puglia “tiella”, in Sicily Arancini.

The supplì is one of the symbols of the Roman fried food: it can be an appetizer, a side dish, a finger food, a snack or lunch standing. What matters most is that it is well done.
A well-made rice supplì in Rome must comply with certain rules.

  1. Size and shape. Not too small, nor too big, with the shape of an egg able to be eaten in two bites.
  2. Mozzarella. A cube of mozzarella must be placed at the center of the rice balls.
  3. Dry frying. The outside of the rice balls, covered with grounded dry bread, should be like a dry scab.

At the first or at the second bite, you will taste the melted mozzarella that will leave a long wire. Because of that, the Roman rice balls are called “supplì style phone” (in memory of the telephone wires).
The name supplì comes from the French word “surprise” and it is related to the effect of mozzarella.
In Rome many pizzerie, trattorie, restaurants or street market sell supplì.
Some important historians and intellectuals, when in Rome, were delighted by the quality of supplì. It also seems that James Joyce talked about it 20 years after his trip to Italy. So, you can not leave Rome without tasting supplì.

Discovering how to order a Coffee in Rome

 

Rome is crazy about coffee. For about one euro, you can get a teeny cup of pure ecstasy. It’s probably the easiest thing to do in Italy, but not so easy if you don’t know some tricks.

 

Gourmetaly gives you a panoramic shot of ways to order a coffee in Italy. It seems to be very complicated explaining this ritual, but in ordinary life is something people do without paying so much attention to, except if something is not make as they expect.

 

Head right into any bar and ask for “un caffè” (please can be omitted if you smile:).

 

Some bars have you pay first, then go  to the counter while others do the opposite. It is a courtesy to leave a small coin to ‘hold the paper down’ for the server.

 

Elegant bars offers you a little chocolate together with the teeny cup, may be a little chocolate ball or square, or a delicious roasted coffee seed covered by chocolate (bitter and sweet at the same time).

 

From northern to southern Italy there is no need to specify that you’re ordering an espresso: if you just say “caffè” at the cashier you’re definitely ordering an espresso. Any other variation has to be specified.

 

If you are in a tourist area there may be tables and chairs for people to sit and drink coffee, but probably there will be table service with waither and often bars post two sets of prices for those who want to drink standing at the bar (bancone) or sitting at a table (al tavolo). Expect to pay more if you’d decide to sit down, but the cost can be well worth it if you’ve found a cozy little spot for people watching.

 

Want to learn more? Enjoy our Espresso and Gelato tour of Rome. 

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