Thursday, November 15, 2012
One of the questions I get asked most often when I bring people into restaurants in Rome is “Is the pasta fresh?”
Usually, my answer is no. The pasta isn’t fresh. For the most part, the iconic pasta dishes that you find in Rome - carbonara, gricia, cacio e pepe - are almost always made with dried pasta. This is pasta that is made with flour and water, and then dried and packaged. Since this pasta is much less absorbent than fresh pasta made with eggs, it works better with these very simple, and non-saucy, sauces.
Fresh pasta - like fettucine, tagliatelle, and lasagna noodles - are much more common in central Italy where the sauces are richer, sometimes creamier and definitely thicker.
As with everything Italian though, there are always exceptions to every rule. Some restaurants in Rome, for whatever reason, use fresh pasta.
I was reminded of this the other day when I stopped by Sora Margherita in the Jewish Ghetto at 10:30 in the morning. This hole-in-the-wall restaurant has only about a dozen tables, and to nab one for lunch it’s always best to stop by that same morning and get your name on the list.
While the owner was busy misspelling my name for the 50th time, my eyes wandered to the back room. One of the charms of Sora Margherita is that it hasn’t changed a bit. Rickety wooden chairs, paper- topped tables and old fashioned wine carafes.
“Oh great!” I thought, “They’ve gone and screwed things up and gotten fancy yellow tablecloths.”
And then I realized,:those aren't table clothes. Each table was carefully draped with a eggy yellow sheet of fresh pasta.
It was Monday and the restaurant was gearing up for the week. It was full on pasta making.
Because Sora Margherita is that exception to the pasta rule. They serve only fresh pasta. And they serve it only a handful of ways.
In addition to the traditional cacio e pepe, they also make what may be one of the best dishes in Rome: Cacio e Pepe con Ricotta. They heap on a big dollop of fresh sheep's milk ricotta to the finished pasta. Once stirred into the hot noodles it mixes with the pepper and pecorino to become what is basically the best plate of macaroni and cheese you’ve ever tasted. The ultimate comfort food.
Since the restaurant is literally a hole in the wall, the kitchen is about the size of a taxi. Which is why the dining room is taken over with pasta making on Monday mornings. I wish I had gotten there a bit earlier, to witness the rolling, stretching and draping part of things. But at least I made it for the last step: the cutting. The short video below makes it look very easy. Maybe it is.
But it's even easier to just stop by early and make a reservation.
30 Piazza delle Cinque Scole
+39.06 687 4216
Dinner: Mon Wed, Fri, Sat
For more information on dining in Rome, download my app, EAT ROME , available on iTunes and for Android.