What would you get if Amatriciana, carbonara, and a whole bunch of sausage and onions eloped in the Roman countryside? Some might say you’d get a big mess—and they wouldn’t be wrong.
Rome’s Dirty Secret: Pasta alla Zozzona
“Pasta alla zozzona means ‘dirty pasta,’” Luca Pappagallo, an Italian chef and author of the cookbook Benvenuti a Casa Pappagallo (2021), explained via a translator. “But in a nice way!”
Born in the southeastern countryside just a few miles outside the city, zozzona is rustic tavern fare made for chasing with a glass of wine. The over-the-top dish defies nearly every convention of Roman pasta. While the recipes of the city’s signature quartet (carbonara, Amatriciana, cacio e pepe, and gricia) coax big flavor from minimal ingredients, their countryside cousin takes more of a kitchen sink approach, featuring Italian sausage, guanciale, onions, tomatoes, Pecorino, egg, and black pepper. “Sometimes you have a craving,” Pappagallo said. “You think: ‘Shall we do something dirty? Shall we do something super rich?’”
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I began my zozzona by browning guanciale, the cured pork jowl that brings salty savor to many Roman pasta dishes, in a skillet. Once the fat was partially rendered, I added the two elements that distinguish zozzona from the better-known Roman pastas: a finely chopped onion and Italian sausage, the ingredient Pappagallo calls “the main character,” as its spiced pork flavor dominates the finished dish. After I broke the sausage into pieces and browned it, in went the passata to form the base of the sauce. While the proteins rendered significant fat into the skillet, I resisted the urge to pour it off—the fat was crucial to infuse unctuous meatiness into the sauce, and zozzona is about unabashed indulgence, after all.
I simmered the sauce to help the fat and passata incorporate, but kept the simmer brief, to preserve some of the fresh brightness of the tomato. In the meantime, I cooked 8 ounces of rigatoni, enough for four small portions, and reserved some cooking water.
As I tossed the al dente rigatoni with the meaty tomato sauce, the sauce clung beautifully to the pasta—but one more layer of richness was still to come. In a separate bowl, I whisked two egg yolks with black pepper and Pecorino Romano and then tempered the mixture with some of the cooking water. I poured the egg mixture into the pot of pasta, stirred, and watched as the dish became plush and creamy, the sauce thickening and taking on a glossy sheen. A dirty mess had never looked quite so good.
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Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!
Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.
Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!
John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.