A real symbol of Neapolitan cooking, ragù is the alternative to pasta alla Genovese for Sunday dinner. A staple of southern Italian summer meals and very popular along the coast of the country, this dish is best enjoyed whilst looking out over the sea. It’s easier said than done to get the right balance between egg yolk and white (if used), and you need to be fast when adding the egg and cheese mix to the cooked pasta when it is still very hot so the sauce will ‘cook’ without curdling. Made in the same way as spaghetti con le vongole, using the sweet orange pulp (basically, the roe) of sea urchins, this dish is most popular in Puglia. It can also handle thick meat sauces, but it’ll do a cream or tomato sauce justice, too. Today though, there is no trace of a similar dish in Genoa, while pasta alla Genovese is a key feature of a Neapolitan Sunday lunch, when breaking the handmade ziti – long tubes of pasta resembling large macaroni which have to be cut into smaller pieces to cook and eat – is part of local tradition. Preparing a perfect cacio e pepe is an art only a few can truly master. Another unmissable Roman classic: in this case, egg yolk (some also use a small quantity of egg white) is the main ingredient, together with the ‘usual’ guanciale (some prefer bacon) and Pecorino cheese, sometimes mixed with Parmesan. The rich, onion-based sauce is slowly-cooked for hours, together with minced carrots and celery, chunks of meat and pieces of lard. Luciana Squadrilli introduces the thirteen most traditional and delicious pasta dishes found throughout Italy, including some well known classics and a few hardly heard of outside the country. One of the most typical pasta dishes from Bologna is called tortellini in brodo, referring to tiny parcels of meat-filled pasta served in a golden capon broth, sometimes with the addition of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. In Italian, all pasta type names are plural. Luciana Squadrilli is a freelance journalist and author specialising in food and travel writing. This is a classic ‘empty larder’ recipe, but by using a generous amount of great quality extra virgin olive oil, you can achieve a highly satisfying result. The final result is a thick, creamy sauce, where the onions have completely melted and the meat is soft and easily pulled apart. Usually short pasta or broken spaghetti is used for minestre, and while northern Italians usually eat it with more liquid, in southern Italy a thicker, creamier version is preferred, obtained by blending some of the legumes and slowly cooking the pasta with a small amount of water or broth until half-cooked and letting it rest for a short time. Sometimes lard, milk and offal is added, too. A tomato-based version of the same recipe is common, too. Some prefer a slippery, oily sauce while others prefer something creamier which ‘wraps’ around the spaghetti, using the pasta's natural starch. An older version of the recipe called gricia, still very popular in Rome's restaurants, did not include tomato, and adding other ingredients such as garlic or onion would result in fierce resentment from any proper Italian foodie. Tagliolini is tagliatelle’s distance cousin. Vongole veraci (carpet shell clams) are the best variety for this dish. This is northern Italy's response to spaghetti al pomodoro; the typical, not-too-thin egg pasta is seasoned with a rich, slowly-cooked tomato sauce (with or without meat; in the former case you would call it a ‘quick ragù’) and flavoured with a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese. In 2008, Italy issued a special stamp dedicated to amatriciana. Once the pasta – usually spaghetti and always a long variety – is cooked and drained, it is added to the clam sauce and quickly mixed in with finely chopped parsley. If you ask an Italian chef which single recipe is best at evaluating a cook's skills, they will tell you spaghetti al pomodoro. It comes from the Liguria region of Italy, and it’s thinner than tagliatelle though still a long ribbon-style pasta, similar to spaghetti. This could be confusing: Genovese sauce bears the name of the northern Italian city of Genoa, but the irresistible scent of this dish – for those who love onions, at least – is from Naples in the south. Are you comfortable with the idea of eating green pasta? If tomatoes are the staple of Naples and Southern Italian cooking, Pecorino cheese and guanciale (cured pork made from pig cheek) are the staples in Rome. The pulp should be freshly extracted from the shells and added at the very end, quickly cooking the pasta with the sauce until it melts and forms a delicate cream, resulting in an unusual yet delicious experience. One of these is amatriciana – many Italians still quarrel about how to name it, with or without the initial ‘a’ (matriciana), but the name clearly refers to the mountain village of Amatrice, where the best guanciale comes from. Neapolitan ragù is a rich, intense red sauce obtained by the slow, extremely long simmering of tomato sauce with soffritto (the Italian version of mirepoix, made of finely chopped onion, parsley and celery), basil and big pieces of mixed meat which, once cooked, are served as a main course after pasta. Once again, ‘simple’ does not mean ‘easy’; the aim is to obtain a delicious and creamy sauce by skilfully mixing the grated cheese (and ground pepper) with the hot, drained pasta, stirring until it perfectly melts. Some more modern recipes also include anchovies and chilli. Both types of pasta look like flattened spaghetti and are a similar width, but tagliatelle will be a little thicker of a bite. Literally meaning ‘cheese and pepper’, this popular Roman recipe basically features the two ingredients – black pepper and Pecorino cheese – and nothing else, besides pasta. When it comes to pasta, Italy is unrivalled beyond doubt. Pesto sauce is usually used to season long pasta such as spaghetti or trenette (similar to spaghetti but with an elliptical instead of round shape) or with short pasta such as trofie. It’s easy to mistake tagliatelle and fettuccine. Usually short pasta or broken spaghetti is used for minestre, and while northern Italians usually eat it with more liquid, in southern Italy a thicker, creamier version is preferred, obtained by blending some of the legumes and slowly cooking the pasta with a small amount of water or broth until half-cooked and letting it rest for a short time.
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