Michelin starred chef Fabio Ciervo shares his tips for cooking Italian dishes like a pro

By Polly Jean Harrison | 17 Aug 2020 | Indulge, Travel

Hotel Eden Rome's chef has advised on the most common mistakes people make when cooking Roman dishes

img tempus
* La Terrazza, Hotel Eden Rome

When it comes to food, the Italians have it good. A YouGov study revealed last year that Italian food is officially the most popular cuisine in the world – with pizza and pasta taking the top spot for most popular dish globally and, in Britain, the average person will enjoy a pasta dish at least once a week. As these recipes are passed down and shared in different countries and with other cultures, the original dish is often altered to suit various tastes or readily available ingredients. 

“Tradition and taste are both important,” said Fabio Ciervo, executive chef at La Terrazza at Hotel Eden Rome, a Dorchester Collection hotel. “But we have to move forward and improve the taste of our dishes and if possible, make them lighter. Nowadays we have much more knowledge and more techniques with a greater understanding on ingredients and their nutritional values.”

For Ciervo, the most common mistake people make is overcooking their pasta. “It’s important to cook the pasta al dente, and then add the sauce to the pasta while it’s still cooking,” he said. 

If you’ve ever struggled with the perfect ragú or been confused by carbonara, here are Chef Ciervo’s top tips on how to make four different Italian dishes like a pro.

CARBONARA   

It’s important to use quality pasta. I would recommend using long pasta like Spaghetti or Bucatini or short pasta like Rigatoni  
Use guanciale (pork cheek) and not bacon  
Cook the pasta for two - three minutes in the sauce and then off heat. Add the eggs to make a tasty Carbonara sauce 
For an authentic Carbonara, the following ingredients must not be added:    
      – Onion   
      – Garlic   
      – Finishing with parsley or basil   
      – Pancetta   
     – Incorporating cream   

img tempus
* Aurora Terrace, Hotel Eden Rome

CACIO E PEPE 

I’d recommend Spaghetti but you can also use a short pasta, however the most important thing is to get the sauce right. It has to be nice and creamy 
A tip: Use 60% of pecorino cheese and 40% of Parmigiano cheese – this will help to not make the pasta taste too salty 
Don’t add the pecorino cheese when the sauce is too hot or the cheese will separate 
To increase the aroma of the pepper, you can crush the pepper and heat it up with a bit of extra virgin olive oil. Ensure the oil doesn’t smoke otherwise it will become toxic 

BUCATINI ALL’AMATRICIANA 

I would highly recommend using Bucatini for this dish, as the sauce will combine nicely with the pasta, however you can also use rigatoni or mezzi rigatoni 
To keep the dish authentic do not:   
      – Use Pancetta (only use the guanciale)   
      – Add parsley 
      – Add red wine 
      – Add Parmigiano (only use Pecorino Romano) 

ROMAN STYLE PIZZA   

Roman pizza is thinner than Neapolitan Pizza    
It’s extremely important to work with a good dough    
Cooking the pizza for too long can make it taste bitter   
Don’t use a mozzarella that’s too wet, as this will make your dough too soft / soggy    
Don’t add too much oil before cooking your pizza    
Don’t overload your pizza with too many ingredients, as it will not cook well and you’ll find it difficult to transfer on the tray or in the pizza oven   

img tempus
* Il Giardino, Hotel Eden Rome