I’m a huge fan of peasant food. Simple, traditional recipes with few ingredients yet full of flavour. The key to this style of cooking is using high quality, local, seasonal ingredients. Peasant food or cucina povera (literally poor kitchen) as it’s known in Italian is popular around the world at the moment, including at Armando al Pantheon.
Our guide Gina lead us through the meal as part of an amazing food tour in Rome and she explained the historical significance of the cuisine. With most of Italy being poor and rural in the past, readily available and inexpensive ingredients were used and little food was wasted. So dishes consisted mostly of vegetables and legumes plus cheaper cuts of meat and offal.
We started our 7 course meal with a simple but tasty entree. Oozing mozzarella di bufala with bruschetta, roasted veges and a hefty amount of olive oil. I was so happy my wonderful hosts prepared this especially for me as a vegetarian alternative to the prosciutto based dish enjoyed by my fellow diners.
Another favourite of the cucina povera movement is one of the simplest pasta dishes of all time, cacio e pepe. Spaghetti, Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper. That’s it. Bliss.
February to May is artichoke season in Rome and during this time you’ll find them on just about every menu throughout the city. Keeping to the ‘peasant food’ theme, the artichoke is simply roasted with a little salt and quite a bit of olive oil. Affordable, in season ingredients at their best.
I received special treatment again when the main meal came out. Everyone else at the table had grilled lamb while I had grilled cheese. You don’t get simpler than that and it was amazing. Hot, gooey, grilled Italian cheese, mmm…
When dessert arrived I thought it was going to be custard but the moment I dug in I was surprised to discover it was actually tiramisu. Lightly sweetened mascarpone cheese and mixed berries. We were all extremely full by the time dessert arrived but within five minutes there was not a spoonful of tiramisu left on anyone’s plate. This was the best tiramisu I have ever eaten and was the perfect way to finish off our cucina povera meal. Simple and delicious.
I can’t recommend Armando al Pantheon highly enough. I truly loved the simplicity of the meal and the care with which it was prepared and served. The food was absolutely delicious and if you find yourself in Rome make a reservation as soon as you arrive as you don’t want to miss out on this experience.
Special thanks to HouseTrip for putting me up in one of their wonderful apartments in Rome and for organising this amazing meal.