Last updated on November 17th, 2023
Are you considering traveling outside our beloved city of Rome but don’t know if it’s worth it?
The answer is simple: whether you have only 24 hours or a whole week in Lazio, you won’t regret it if you spend it eating! Lazio has so much to offer and although Roman cuisine is certainly the heart of it all, the whole region has recipes to cherish and sample.
I have been to Lazio as a tourist and as a local living near the region’s border. I have tried everything from the most popular tourist restaurants to the hole-in-the-wall just barely visible behind narrow alleyways and climbing ivy.
I will explain what makes Lazio so memorable from a culinary point of view with some tips and tricks along the way. Keep this article at hand and be sure not to miss the best of Rome and how to blend in like a true Italian. Annamo as they say in Roman, let’s go!
Jump to Section
Food from Lazio vs Italian Food
The Lazio cuisine stems from the cucina povera or poor man’s cooking style where dishes are made seasonally from local products but cooked in a delicious way. Romans let nothing go to waste and many dishes are based on recycling leftover food.
You will find some of the absolute best pasta dishes are from Rome, where simplicity is at its best. Their most famous pastas are made with only a few ingredients, yet they outshine other, more complex pastas.
Geographically, Lazio is a very rich and prosperous land for cultivating produce and other crops. Its climate is mild, lending to long growing seasons in which fresh produce is abundant year-round. And let’s not forget Lazio’s ever-popular meat dishes, rich stews, hearty roasts, and unique cured meat.
Lazio is also famous for its abundant portions, so be prepared to unbuckle your belt!
Foodie Experience: If you love Roman food as much as we do than consider taking a food tour. Read our full guide to booking in Italy Foodie Bucket List – 17 Amazing Italian Culinary Experiences by Region
(Pronounced gwuahn-chah-leh in Italian)
One of the most important ingredients in Lazian cooking, guanciale is made from fatty pork cheeks. After being coated in wine they are seasoned well with salt, pepper, herbs, spices and sugar and then cured for 3-4 weeks. It is then hung to dry. It is similar to pancetta but with a slightly different flavor.
Mortadella di Amatrice
(Pronounced mohr-tah-dehl-ah dee ah-mah-tree-cheh in Italian)
This is Lazio’s version of the classic mortadella enjoyed throughout all of Italy’s regions. Made from ground meat from the pork loin and shoulder seasoned with salt and pepper, and cured in a natural casing. It is then pressed and dried for three to four months. It’s a lot spicier than other versions and darker in color.
Prosciutto di Amatrice
(Pronounced proh-shoot-toh dee ah-mah-tree-cheh in Italian)
Records show that prosciutto in Lazio has been around ever since the Middle Ages, and it was valued so much it was even used as currency! This prosciutto is made with selected pig breeds of Southern Italy: Durocs, Landraces and Large Whites. The ham is trimmed and then salted several times over two or three weeks. It is then washed, preserved in lard, salt, pepper and spices and hung for about a year. You can recognize prosciutto di Amatrice from its pear shape.
(Pronounced cohp-pee-eht-teh in Italian)
Originally made with scrap meat from goats, sheep, horses or donkeys, this is a chewy, jerky-type of salumi from Castelli Romani that is now made from pork. It is still cut into thin strips and cured with lots of spices, including chili flakes and fennel and dried for several months. Although a bit hard to find these days, it is well worth the hunt!
(Pronounced soo-see-ahn-ehl-lah in Italian)
Traditionally when pigs are butchered in Italy absolutely nothing goes to waste and the Lazian susianella is a prime example. The pig organs are ground together, seasoned well with fennel and chili pepper and cured in a natural casing from one to six months. The longer it is cured the darker it becomes and richer in flavor.
Tip: If you are eager to try some of these atypical products made from organs and other leftovers, go for something that is not quite as aged because the flavor will be much milder.
Porchetta di Ariccia
(Pronounced pohr-keht-tah dee ah-reech-chah in Italian)
Many regions have their versions of stuffed pig and this one is Lazio’s – stuffed with fennel, rosemary and garlic before being slowly roasted on a spit over an open fire. It is a very popular food at festivals, gatherings, fairs and markets of all kinds. Check out the Sagra della Porchetta di Ariccia (porchetta celebration fair) if you love this dish as much as we do!
Pecorino Romano DOP
(Pronounced peh-coh-ree-noh roh-mah-noh dohp in Italian)
Although this sheep’s milk cheese is not made exclusively in Lazio, it is an ingredient you will find in many dishes throughout the region. Many of Rome’s most famous pastas include pecorino romano.
Tip: You can bring vacuum-packed cheese back to the USA as a souvenir. Many shops will vacuum pack your cheese for you – just ask!
Lumache alla Romana
(Pronounced loo-mah-keh ahl-lah roh-mah-nah in Italian)
This Roman appetizer is made from high-quality snails that are slowly stewed in a rich tomato sauce flavored with chili peppers, anchovies and mint. This is traditionally eaten in celebration of Saint John the Baptist at the end of June.
Olive di Gaeta
(Pronounced oh-lee-veh dee giy-eh-tah in Italian)
These olives are used in both cooking and making olive oil. They are a purplish oval-shaped olive with a woody, bitter flavor. They are often enjoyed as a snack with cocktails.
(Pronounced keh-kah in Italian)
This uncooked sauce from Rome is made of chopped firm tomatoes (almost green), green olives, parsley, basil, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper. The ingredients are simply mixed together and left to work their magic for about half an hour at room temperature. This sauce is very popular in the heat of the summer on pasta, rice or used as a condiment with meats.
(Pronounced gar-oom in Italian)
A common fermented fish sauce made with anchovies (sometimes made with other fish), widely used in ancient Roman and Greek cuisine. Today it is still made “in-house” or you can buy pre-made versions.
(Pronounced cahr-bohn-ahr-ah in Italian)
Arguably one of the most iconic Italian pasta dishes is carbonara, a classic Roman dish made with eggs, guanciale or pancetta, parmesan and black pepper. Typically served with spaghetti or bucatini, you will often find this popular dish served with other pasta corta, or short pasta shapes like mezze-maniche meaning “half sleeves.”
Cacio e Pepe
(Pronounced cah-choh eh peh-peh in Italian)
Another famous first course in Rome is cacio e pepe, a pasta made simply from sheep’s milk cheese pecorino romano and freshly ground course black pepper and served with spaghetti or other long pastas. There are two different theories when it comes to making this pasta because some add butter to the cheese, meanwhile others say that all you need is a bit of cooking liquid from the pasta to help the sauce come together. I like to add a dab of butter, but I cannot promise that is the true Roman way!
(Pronounced ah-mah-tree-chaw-nah in Italian)
This pasta originated in Amatrice (which was tragically hit by a powerful earthquake in 2016) but is popular throughout the whole of Lazio. In amatriciana, tomato sauce is seasoned with chili pepper, onion, white wine and guanciale and then tossed with either spaghetti or bucatini, Lazio’s most famous pasta shapes.
Pasta alla Zozzona
(Pronounced pah-stah ahl-lah zohz-zoh-nah in Italian)
Zozzona means “dirty” in Italian and refers to the sauce that is full of a lot of different things lying around and the richness of the sauce that is made from pork sausage, tomatoes, red wine, olive oil and grated pecorino Romano cheese.
Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
(Pronounced spah-geht-tee ahl-yo eh oh-lee-oh in Itlaian)
Another very popular pasta in the cucina povera that is made with next to nothing but is absolutely delicious. Made only from a sauce of garlic, oil and pepperoncino or chili peppers, this pasta is a staple in most towns and villages. This is a great dish to try making at home if you are new to Italian cooking. It takes very little time, expertise and few ingredients. Just be careful not to burn the garlic!
Fettuccine Burro e Parmigiano
(Pronounced feht-too-chee-nee boor-roh eh pahr-mee-gahn-oh in Italian)
While many Romans today do not actually eat this pasta very often, it is said to have originated in 1908 by chef Alfredo Di Lelio who made it for his pregnant wife. It is said that the recipe was then brought back to the USA where it gained popularity. Today, however, the American version is far heavier and richer than the original version made with the addition of cream.
Where to Eat: For the absolute best Italian fettuccine burro e parmigiano grab a table at Ristorante Alfredo alla Scrofa (Rome).
(Pronounced pehn-neh ahl-ahr-rahb-bee-ah-tah in Italian)
This “angry” pasta refers to the spicy kick of the tomato sauce made with chili peppers, garlic and basil. This is one of the few pastas that are naturally vegan as it is not traditionally served with cheese on top.
Vegan Tip: If you are traveling to Lazio, remember that the penne all’arrabbiata is naturally vegan!
Pasta alla Gricia
(Pronounced pah-stah ahl-lah gree-chah in Italian)
This Roman pasta is believed to be an evolution of carbonara made with guanciale and pecorino romano cheese that is mixed with starchy pasta water to make a creamy, luxurious sauce. It is finished with a generous grind of fresh black pepper.
Rigatoni con la Pajata
(Pronounced rih-gah-toh-nee cohn lah pi-yah-tah in Italian)
Another Roman pasta dish but that is quite hard to find these days. It is made from the pajata referring to the intestines of a calf that has never eaten grass but only raised on milk. When this milk from the intestines is heated, it coagulates, creating a rich, thick sauce. Onion, celery, carrots, tomatoes, white wine, lard and spices are also used. Once the sauce is finished, it is tossed with rigatoni, a favorite pasta shape in Lazio.
Pasta e Ceci alla Romana
(Pronounced pah-stah eh cheh-chee ahl-lah roh-mah-nah in Italian)
Another great example of the cucina povera in which chickpeas and pasta are cooked together with anchovies, rosemary and garlic. There is no one recipe for this as every family has their own, passed down from generation to generation.
Gnocchi alla Romana
(Pronounced nyawk-kee ahl-lah roh-mah-nah in Italian)
These Roman gnocchi are far from your traditional recipe. Semolina flour is cooked with milk, butter, eggs and nutmeg and left to set. It is then cut into rounds, sprinkled with parmesan and baked until golden brown. This is a great dish to indulge in on cold winter days.
Zuppa di Ceci e Castagne
(Pronounced zoop-pah dee cheh-chee eh cah-stah-neh in Italian)
Pancetta, onion, and garlic are sautéed with chopped tomatoes and parsley. Chickpeas, chili peppers and broth are added and cooked until tender for over an hour. Chestnuts are added and the moment everything is tender the soup is ready for the table.
(Pronounced bahz-zohf-fee-ah in Italian)
This is a very traditional dish made from seasonal produce in Sezze e Priverno, primarily in the spring and summer. Peas, beans, artichokes, lemon, lettuce, onions and olive oil are all stewed together until tender. Slices of stale bread are placed in the bottom of bowls where an egg is cracked on top. The hot vegetables are ladled on top, cooking the egg and softening the bread. It is then finished with pecorino cheese.
(Pronounced sbroh-shah in Italian)
Also known as zuppa di lago or “lake soup”, this is yet another good example of how lazian cooking likes to use up stale bread while taking advantage of what grows well in the area or what can be caught. Originating from the Bolsena area, this dense fish soup is made from tench, eel, pike and perch which are stewed with mint, potatoes, garlic, onion, tomatoes, old bread, spicy peppers and olive oil. This is not my favorite but Italians who live inland adore these kinds of fish.
Stracci di Antrodoco
(Pronounced strahch-chee dee ahn-troh-doh-coh in Italian)
This is heaven on earth from the very small town of Antrodoco. Thin savory crepe-like pancakes are filled with meat ragù, covered in tomato sauce and parmesan cheese and baked until golden. It’s so comforting and so filling.
Coda alla vaccinara
(Pronounced coh-dah ahl-lah vahch-cheen-ahr-ah in Italian)
Roman oxtail stew at its best is stewed at length with plenty of red wine, tomatoes, seasonings and celery until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. In my book there is nothing better!
(Pronounced gahr-oh-foh-lah-toh in Italian)
This is essentially a beef pot roast that is stuffed with cloves, browned and then cooked slowly with lard, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, parsley, red wine and tomatoes. Tradition has it cooked in a terracotta pot until tender but not yet falling apart.
(Pronounced sahl-teem-bohk-cah in Italian)
Its name comes from the Italian saltare in bocca meaning “jump in your mouth” and that is exactly what the different flavors of this dish do. Veal cutlets wrapped in prosciutto are lightly pan-fried with sage and then sautéed until just cooked through in white wine.
Fact: The first mention of saltimbocca is in Pellegrino Artusi’s (a pioneer for documenting Italian recipes) cookbook “La Scienza in Cucine e l’Arte di Mangiar Bene,” published in 1891.
Pollo alla Romana
(Pronounced pohl-loh ahl-lah roh-mah-nah in Italian)
This is a delicious way to taste Lazio if you love chicken. The whole chicken is cut up into pieces, browned and then braised in white wine with tomatoes, peppers and oil until just tender. It is then finished with a bit of oregano and it’s done. Simple and delicious!
Pollo con Capperi
(Pronounced pohl-loh cohn cahp-peh-ree in Italian)
This salty secondo is not only memorable but easy to make. The whole chicken is cut up and browned as in pollo alla romana and then cooked with white wine, anchovies, capers, parsley, garlic and black pepper. The sauce is puréed until smooth and served over the succulent chicken pieces.
Fact: Lazio is one of the biggest chicken consumers in Italy!
(Pronounced peek-kee-ah-poh in Italian)
Beef is slowly cooked with wine, peppercorns, onions, cloves and carrots until tender. The meat is removed, shredded and the carrots chopped. It’s a traditional Italian dish originating from Rome. The sauce is thickened with herbs and spices and remixed with the shredded meat. This dish can be served as a secondo or made into a sandwich with ciabatta bread.
(Pronounced strah-cheht-tee in Italian)
The word straccetti means “little rags” and refers to the slices of beef that resemble just that. I love this secondo; it is filling yet doesn’t weigh you down. Radicchio or arugula is sautéed with garlic and rosemary until just wilted. Separately, paper-thin slices of skirt or flank steak is quickly cooked in a hot pan and then added to the arugula. The dish is finished with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
(Pronounced scoht-tah-dee-toh in Italian)
Translating to ”burning finger,” its name comes from the fact that the meat is served piping hot off the coals and you are expected to eat it with your hands. Baby lamb chops are marinated in oil, mustard, lemon juice, pepper, garlic and various herbs before being grilled. The chops are served with a sauce made from olive oil, lemon juice and mustard.
Trippa alla Romana
(Pronounced treep-pah ahl-lah roh-mah-nah in Italian)
Not unlike tripe you will find in other regions, it is stewed slowly in tomato sauce and served with grated parmesan or Pecorino Romano.
Where to Eat It: Tripe is not as strange or weird as it seems to many foreigners. It is one of the dishes we recommend dipping your toe in to get a true taste of local Italian cuisine. Try Checchino Dal 1887 in Rome for a really well-done trippa alla Romana.
Involtini di Manzo
(Pronounced ihn-vohl-tee-nee dee mahn-zoh in Italian)
Involtini means “roll” in English, referring to the technique that is used to prepare this dish. Thin slices of beef are rolled up with prosciutto, carrot and celery sticks and closed with a toothpick. The rolls are pan-fried and then cooked gently in a rich tomato sauce for over an hour.
Fact: Italians don’t typically love leftovers as Americans do, but this dish tastes even better the next day.
(Pronounced ahb-brahk-kee-oh in Italian)
Typically made for Easter, young lamb (only fed on mother’s milk) is slowly stewed with rosemary, sage, garlic, white wine, vinegar and anchovies or garum and served with roasted potatoes.
Tiella di Gaeta
(Pronounced tee-ehl-lah dee giy-eh-tah in Italian)
Created as a way to use what vegetables and seafood was available, this savory pie is stuffed with octopus or squid (but can also vary), tomatoes, capers, Gaeta olives and parsley. The recipe differs depending on what vegetables are on hand and the fresh fish of the day.
(Pronounced veen-yah-roh-lah in Italian)
This Roman vegetable stew highlights Lazio’s long and prolific growing season. Made with fresh artichokes, broad beans (fava beans) and peas cooked in white wine and lemon juice, this vegetarian dish is served in the spring. It is one of my favorites.
Pomodori col Riso
(Pronounced poh-moh-doh-ree cohl ree-soh in Italian)
A great vegetarian dish that is made from tomatoes that are stuffed with rice, tomato juice, salt, pepper and oil. They are then baked in the oven, often with cubed potatoes.
Cipolle al forno
(Pronounced chih-pohl-leh ahl fohr-noh in Italian)
This is a delicious contorno or side dish for both meat and seafood made from whole onions that are oven baked and then sliced and served with vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Carciofi alla Romana
(Pronounced cahr-choh-fee ahl-lah roh-mah-nah in Italian)
Made from Roman-style artichokes (slightly rounder and have less thorny leaves than other types), they are stuffed with garlic, mint, and parsley and braised until very tender. Some recipes call for a squeeze of lemon juice at the end. This is one of our top picks for contorni to try while in Lazio.
Carciofi alla Giudia
(Pronounced cahr-choh-fee ahl-lah jew-dee-ah in Italian)
This recipe is from the Roman Jewish community dating back to the 16th century. These artichokes are not only delicious but beautiful. They are first trimmed down to look like a rose before entering the fryer. They are then drained and “opened up” by whacking them against one another, resulting in a super crispy outside and tender inside.
Tip: If you adore artichokes head to the Jewish quarter in Rome where so many of their traditional dishes are prepared using artichokes. Artichoke season goes from February to May.
Puntarelle alla Romana
(Pronounced poon-tah-rehl-leh ahl-lah roh-man-ah in Italian)
Catalonian chicory is thinly sliced into little curls, kept crispy in an ice bath and then seasoned with a simple dressing of oil, garlic, salt and anchovies. This salad is cool and refreshing with a crunchy, bitter bite. This quickly became one of my favorite salad upon moving to Italy. There is nothing quite like it back in the USA.
Pane Casareccio di Genzano IGP
(Pronounced pah-neh cah-sah-rehch-choh dee jehn-sah-noh in Italian)
This regional bread is baked in wood-fired ovens in various sizes (1-5 ½ lb. loaves). The crust is crunchy but with a soft, pillowy inside.
Read More: about pane casareccio di Genzano IGP and about all of Italy’s bread in Bread in Italy – Types of Italian Breads & Where to Eat Them
Meaning “candle” in Italian, referring to the elongated shape of this bread. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, this bread is great to use for recipes that call for stale bread because the fresh loaves don’t last more than a day. Great for panini or sandwiches.
Read More: about ciriola and other Italian breads in Bread in Italy – Types of Italian Breads & Where to Eat Them
(Pronounced peez-zah roh-mah-nah in Italian)
Also known as scrocchiarella, meaning the crunchy one. The crust of this pizza is so thin, almost like a cracker due to the addition of olive oil and less water in the dough. Unlike other pizzas that are stretched by hand, this dough is firmer and must be rolled with the help of a rolling pin.
Pizza alla Pala
(Pronounced peez-zah ahl-lah pah-lah in Italian)
Also known as pizza pinsa, pizza romana typical street-food is an oval-shaped flatbread made from a slow-rising dough, making for a thick, fluffy crust. The dough is cooked first, served on a pala or wooden board, and topped with the remaining ingredients.
Where to Eat It: La Pratolina is one of the best and most authentic places in Rome to eat pizza alla pala
Sometimes called pinsa romana (Roman Pinsa), this light and airy pizza is shaped into a long, oval pizza, often served as pizza a taglio or by the slice.
The dough has a high hydration and mixed flour crust,creating a unique flavor, cloud-like texture with a crispy crust.
Get Our Recipe: Making pinsa at home is easy and fun. Get our step-by-step instructions for pizza pinsa in our recipe, What Is Pinsa? – All About Rome’s Healthy Pizza.
(Pronounced trah-peez-zee-noh in Italian)
If you are going to try only one street food this should be it. The name trapizzino is made from the words pizza and tramezzino meaning pizza-sandwich. A triangle-shaped piece of pizza dough is stuffed with foods that would typically be difficult to eat on the go such as meatballs, eggplant parmigiano or artichokes. A good one should be crunchy on the outside but have a fluffy interior from both the fluffy pizza dough and filling.
(Pronounced soop-plee in Italian)
These are similar to the Sicilian arancini -fried rice balls – but in the Lazian version, the rice is cooked in a rich ragù instead of butter and white wine. The rice balls are then stuffed with mozzarella and deep fried. They are sometimes called supplì al telefono or “on the phone” because when you open up this savory snack the long strands of melted mozzarella remind us of the telephone cord.
Crostata di Ricotta
(Pronounced croh-stah-tah dee ree-coht-tah in Italian)
This crostata, like a pie, is filled with sweet, lightly scented lemon ricotta. Yum!
(Pronounced tohz-zeht-tee in Italian)
These are best described as what Americans refer to as “biscotti” or hard cookies that are double-baked. They are made with nuts, candied fruit and sometimes chocolate but recipes vary. The tozzetti Romani is a version made with almonds or walnuts and honey served at Christmas. Tozzetti di Viterbo are made with hazelnuts for weddings and other religious celebrations.
(Pronounced pahn-jahl-loh in Italian)
This cake is traditionally prepared on the winter solstice as a symbol for the return of sunny, warm days ahead. It is made from flour, candied fruit, various nuts, raisins, honey, orange peel, lemon peel, and chocolate. The cake is covered in a saffron glaze and baked.
(Pronounced mah-ree-tohz-zee in Italian)
You cannot miss these in Rome; you will see them in almost every bakery and bar. They are made from a sweet bread bun that is sliced in half and filled with whipped cream. Roman’s like to eat them for breakfast with coffee. Maritozzi translates to “almost-husband” referring to the young grooms-to-be who would give these treats to their fiancées. Historically, maritozzi were the only sweets that were allowed during Lent.
Tip: If you really want to fit in, try a maritozzi with your morning coffee at our favorite Roman pasticcerie:
- Pasticceria Regoli
- Roscioli Caffe
- Il Maritozzario
Traditional Food of Lazio FAQ
A Roman breakfast is similar to the typical Italian breakfast formula of something sweet like a pastry and a coffee, however, Roman’s also love their maritozzi for breakfast as well which are not common in other regions, especially as you go north.
Yes! The region is full of vineyards that produce numerous DOC certified red and white wines. Frascati, Rossetto and Cesanese are some of the most well-known and loved.
Get your hands on some Sabina extra virgin olive oil as it is considered one of the best out there. It is produced in the Sabina hills, located between the provinces of Rieti and Rome.