Rachel Roddy’s recipe for pasta with peas, ham, egg and cheese | A kitchen in Rome

The key to getting pasta alla papalina just right is the five-second wait before you add the cheese and egg …

For a while, I thought there was a recipe called fettuccine alla pappardelle. It was the result of me skimming through a book looking for something else. But like a dozing passenger on a high-speed train passing through a station and trying to read its name, I caught a glimpse of fettuccine alla pap … And decided it was fettuccine alla pappardelle before racing on. The glimpse stuck because it was weird. Alla means “in the style of”, so pasta in the style of pasta! That is, fettuccine (narrow ribbons typical of Lazio) in the style of pappardelle (thick ribbons typical of Tuscany, Umbria etc), which could mean wild boar, or porcini, or duck. All delicious, and such a musical name: fettuccine alla pappardelle! I would make it, one day.

The Italian food historian Massimo Montanari begins his book A Short History of Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce by talking about the origins of recipes, the age-old search for “the exact moment when someone had the idea to make something for the very first time” – the invention and the inventor, if you like. This has given rise to all sorts of stories that might have flecks of truth in them, but are more often the work of fantasy, fables, wordplay and mistakes. Montanari is clear to note that he isn’t negating the relevance of origins, or the reassuring value of “a beginning that explains”; rather, he simply reminds us that fiction has replaced history. The origin of fettuccine alla pappardelle, for example: a short-sighted woman in a rush misreads a recipe name and makes up a recipe she thinks about often enough to believe it is true –until she comes across the right page in the right book and discovers that it isn’t fettuccine alla pappardelle at all, but fettuccine alla papalina.

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