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Photography by Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Put down the frozen lasagna before an Italian grandmother materializes out of thin air to whack you over the head with a frying pan. Cancel your dinner reservation at Olive Garden, a true affront to the good name of the meatball. You can make delicious Italian food at home without spending a fortune or losing a decade of your life to culinary-related stress; and we have this on good authority from a real live Roman local.

The local in question? Giovanni Bonmartini-Fini, owner of Barone Fini Wines and the ideal medium through which to understand and appreciate Italian culture. On a trip to Rome earlier this year, he packed centuries of Italian history, entire menus worth of delicious dishes, enough quaint streets and photogenic scenes to make any aspiring Instagrammer shed a quiet tear of joy, and (of course!) a healthy dose of wine into the span of a few days. Of chief importance in all this was highlighting the philosophy Italians have when it comes to entertaining; which, as our host succinctly puts it, is as simple as “celebrating being together with lots of great food and drink.”

“Although the American approach to weeknight dinners is continually evolving and nearing the Italian concept, Italians focus more on the fact that a meal is not a necessity but a joyous moment to unite the family later in the evening,” says Bonmartini-Fini. 

Comprised of simple, seasonal, and always fresh ingredients, a typical Italian weeknight meal includes a “primo” (a small pasta or soup) and a “secondo” (an equally small serving of protein and vegetables). Wine flows freely—for the primi, opt for a light white like Barone Fini’s crisp Pinot Grigio; the heavier secondi demand a richer red like Barone Fini’s Merlot—and an optional dessert serves as the “gran finale.” Tried and true recipes make for minimum kitchen time and maximum time spent enjoying your creation with friends and family.

The good news is that this doesn’t have to be an aspirational philosophy for busy weeknights. We asked Bonmartini-Fini to share a few of his go-to, no-fail pasta recipes; and as someone who has personally taste-tested these and still dreams about the carbonara on a fairly regular basis, I can vouch for every one of them.

Prepared in the amount of time it takes the pasta to boil, each dish makes four servings (read: leftovers for the next day’s work lunch) and is pretty hard to mess up. You’ll want to add these recipes to your weekly rotation of meals, trust us.  

N.B: The below recipes are formatted in the original metric system; to convert, head to calculator.net/conversion-calculator.html to see what the correct measurements are for you.

Carbonara

 
Slightly different in every Roman trattoria and beloved by pastaphiles worldwide, this classic dish is a surefire hit and comfort food favorite. Bonmartini-Fini’s take on the recipe (which he has dubbed “scrambled eggs and bacon pasta”) is so easy his 14-year-old son prepared it in mere minutes at an impromptu cooking class in his kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 400g pasta  
  • 200g guanciale or pancetta, cubed
  • 50ml Barone Fini Pinot Grigio
  • 4-6 eggs
  • 50g parmigiano reggiano or grana padana, grated
  • black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. While you are boiling the pasta water, saute a generous fistful of guanciale or pancetta cubes. I prefer slightly smoked, and if you can’t find these ingredients, dice up thickly sliced bacon. If you don’t like the fat, fry it off in low heat until only the meat remains. Finish off with a splash of Barone Fini Pinot Grigio; which, [when] boiled off, eliminates the gamey flavor. Then, either keep the oil that develops or drain it off [for a healthier option].
  2. Separately, whip the eggs while adding the grated parmigiano.
  3. Boil the pasta in minimal time; just enough to make it very al dente. The more al dente, the healthier and less caloric the pasta is. While it’s boiling, fill a coffee cup with the pasta water.
  4. Strain the pasta, mix with the sautéed pancetta/guanciale, then [whisk] vigorously with the eggs. Season with pepper to taste, and if the pasta is too thick mix in some of the pasta water from the coffee cup. Make sure to provide extra grated parmigiano when served.

Cacio e Pepe

The quintessential effortless pasta, being that it literally consists of two ingredients: “cacio” (cheese) and “pepe” (pepper). To be filed under dinner ideas for those days where you are properly hangry and would rather eat your shoe than wait 15 minutes for dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 400g pasta
  • 200g pecorino romano, freshly grated and medium aged (if you can’t find good quality pecorino romano, you can easily substitute with parmigiano)
  • black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Boil the pasta to make it very al dente.
  2. Collect a coffee cup or two of boiling water in a separate bowl and vigorously mix in the grated cheese, making sure the cheese does not melt. The water should become creamy white while the cheese should not become stringy.  Put aside extra pasta water as a reserve if the sauce is too thick. Season with fresh ground black pepper to taste, and the Cacio e Pepe is ready to serve.

Amatriciana

Pasta all’Amatriciana is basically a dressed up version of classic tomato sauce. The slightly spicy pasta is packed with flavor and is a perfect hearty staple for cold weather.

Ingredients:

  • 400g pasta
  • 150g guanciale/pancetta, cubed
  • 75g pecorino romano or parmigiano, freshly grated
  • 1 whole peperoncino
  • 1 large can of good quality Italian peeled tomatoes
  • 50ml Barone Fini Pinot Grigio
  • olive oil

Directions:

  1. When you begin boiling the pasta water, sauté the guanciale or pancetta in a frying pan, along with some peperoncino. If you don’t like the fat, fry it off in low heat until only the meat remains. Finish off with a splash of Barone Fini Pinot Grigio, [and either] keep the oil that develops or drain it off, replacing it with olive oil.
  2. Separate the Italian peeled tomatoes from the water in the can, crushing them one by one in your hand in order to extract as much water as possible. Put the remaining pulp in the frying pan.
  3. Cook vigorously for 10 minutes, covered. Cook pasta to be al dente and mix with sauce adding grated Pecorino.

See more weeknight dinner ideas to try ASAP:

3-Ingredient Lunches to Make During a Busy Workweek
8 Macro Bowl Recipes to Help You Detox From the Weekend
These Pasta Salad Recipes Will Make Your Mouth Water

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