Fettuccine alla papalina

Fettuccine alla papalina (Fettuccine for the Pope)

In Lazio, pasta, primi piatti by Frank23 Comments

Fettuccine alla papalina, or “Fettuccine for the Pope”, is an upscale reinterpretation of the earthy spaghetti alla carbonara. The story goes that the dish was prepared for a certain Cardinal Pacelli, soon to become Pope Pius XII, who had asked the owner of a restaurant in the Borgo (the area of Rome that lies between the Vatican and the Tiber River) to make him a more delicate version of the classic Roman dish. So the restauranteur came up with this more refined dish, substituting fettuccine for the usual spaghetti, prosciutto for the guanciale, Parmesan for the pecorino, and adding a splash of cream.

Fettuccine alla papalina is quite simple and despite being more ‘refined’ is actually easier to make than carbonara.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • Fresh egg pasta, made according to our master recipe with 4-6 eggs, or 4-6 “nests” of store-bought fettuccine
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Butter or olive oil
  • 250g (1/2 lb) prosciutto or cooked ham, cut into small cubes
  • 350g (1/2 lb) peas (optional)
  • 250ml (1 cup) heavy cream
  • 4 eggs, beaten with
  • 200g (7 oz) grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

If using homemade fresh egg pasta, prepare it following our basic recipe.

You sauté some finely chopped onion in butter or olive oil until translucent.

Add the prosciutto or ham, and allow that to sauté for a few minutes, then, if you like and are feeling a bit heretical (see Note below), add the peas and allow them to insaporire for a minute or two more. Then add heavy cream and allow the cream to reduce a bit.

Cook the fettuccine and, when al dente, drain (not too well) and add them to the cream sauce. Then pour over a egg which you will have beaten with grated parmesan cheese. Mix well, letting the egg and cheese mixture to thicken the sauce.

Serve immediately, if you like with additional grated cheese.

Fettuccine alla papalina

Notes on Fettuccine alla papalina

A number of knowledgeable sources say that the additional of peas is not authentic. You will, nevertheless, often find fettuccine alla papalina made this way and I rather like it. I’ve also seen some recipes that call for sliced mushrooms as well as peas, but this is really going far afield, it seems to me. It must be very nice, but at that point I wouldn’t call it papalina

This is not an ancient dish, by the way. Pope Pius XII was the controversial Pope who reigned during WWII, from 1939 to 1958. As Cardinal, he signed an concordat with Hitler’s Germany in 1933 and was, in the eyes of many, excessively deferential to Germany during the war. In any even, the chronology is interesting, since one story for the origins of spaghetti alla carbonara is that it was invented by Italians using the bacon and egg rations that US soldiers brought along with them as they moved up the ‘boot’ of Italy during the war. If so, then fettuccine alla papalina could not have been invented while Pius was still Cardinal prior to his coronation in 1939. Anyway, whatever its origins, the dish is really delicious!

Fettuccine alla papalina (Fettuccine for the Pope)

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: Serves 4-6

Fettuccine alla papalina (Fettuccine for the Pope)

Ingredients

  • Fresh egg pasta, made according to our master recipe with 4-6 eggs, or 4-6 "nests" of store-bought fettuccine
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Butter or olive oil
  • 250g (1/2 lb) prosciutto or cooked ham, cut into small cubes
  • 350g (1/2 lb) peas (optional)
  • 250ml (1 cup) heavy cream
  • 4 eggs, beaten with
  • 200g (7 oz) grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. If using homemade fresh egg pasta, prepare it following our basic recipe.
  2. You sauté some finely chopped onion in butter or olive oil until translucent.
  3. Add the prosciutto or ham, and allow that to sauté for a few minutes, then, if you like and are feeling a bit heretical (see Note below), add the peas and allow them to insaporire for a minute or two more. Then add heavy cream and allow the cream to reduce a bit.
  4. Cook the fettuccine and, when al dente, drain (not too well) and add them to the cream sauce. Then pour over a egg which you will have beaten with grated parmesan cheese. Mix well, letting the egg and cheese mixture to thicken the sauce.
  5. Serve immediately, if you like with additional grated cheese.
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Comments

  1. Hi Frank, I’ve “bookmarked” this recipe in a book I read over a year ago and still haven’t gotten around to making it…thanks for reminding me of how much I want to try this pasta dish…yours looks so good! I think the book is Popes, Peasants & Shepherds…

  2. Please note that the historical recipe does not ask for peas. There is another roman dish, Fettuccine alla Boscaiola, which features a cream-mushroom-pea sauce – maybe that is where the confusion comes from.

    Also, rather than using cooked ham, the result will be more flavoursome if you use diced raw prosciutto, which will cook during the preparation of the dish.

    That said, you should always feel free to modify any traditional recipe to your liking 🙂 !

  3. As you probably know, I am not a huge stickler for “authentic.” Food develops. Food is fun. (Although I am partial to egg yolks….) This looks exactly like a dish I discovered (30 years ago) made with tortellini. That was scrumptious. Ergo this is scrumptious.

  4. Hi Frank,
    ‘Heavy Cream’, now is that ingredient common in recipes in Italy??
    Many people from the old country tell me it is not.

    -Paul

    1. Author

      No, cream is not a very common ingredient, in particular in the cooking of the center and south of the country. But it is not unknown, and it finds its way into a number of dishes often styled “alla panna”, like tortellini alla panna, pollo alla panna and fagiolini alla panna, as well as, of course, this dish. You’ll find it in any Italian supermarket—or rather the Italian equivalents, which are panna da montare, or whipping cream very much like our heavy cream, and panna da cucina, literally cooking cream, which is much thicker so it needs no reducing.

      1. I agree with those good points. I was always under the impression that butter in the states isn’t as rich as Europe’s. I have recipes for fettuccine con Bura which only butter is used, is different for our fettuccine Alfredo which requests heavy cream

  5. I’ve been thinking of preparing spaghetti alla carbonara for the last few days – I’m so glad I found this delicious recipe!!! I do have a recipe but I can’t wait to make this because ‘creamier is always better’!! ++ We lived in Malta for eight years and the pasta dishes there were simply fabulous. The spaghetti alla carbonara served at our favorite restaurant always included peas! ; o ) I’m heading out on Sunday for a ‘return’ visit to Italy. I can’t wait! We used to travel to Italy, esp. Rome, when we lived in Malta because the bank my husband worked for often had their board meetings in Rome.

    1. Author

      Enjoy your trip—as I’m sure you will! And make sure to eat a lot—but then again, I’m sure you didn’t need me to tell you that. 😉

  6. Ooh! I like this recipe, simply because I have my own version of an inauthentic “carbonara” which is like much better than the original as I add cream! I know it’s a no-no in the real dish, but as long as we know what is the authentic way to make a dish, I think it’s fine to keep passing it along, and making our own versions along the way, too.

    Although I grew up in Scotland, I have never liked peas, so I will try this with the fettuccine and no peas. 🙂 Grazie, Frank! Always enjoy your recipes!

    1. Author

      Thanks, Christina! And I do agree, you don’t have to stick to the rules of authenticity all the time. The problem is, too many people don’t even know the rules in the first place!

  7. Food and history,are two great subjects that form a splendid marriage,Frank is an exponent of both,It is no secret that pope Pius Xll was a controversial figure.He was Nuncio Appostolicum (Vatican Ambassador) in Berlin ,when Hitler came to power.He trod a very fine line between the Church and the Nazis during his reign. Who are We to judge him? My brother Lieto found refuge in a Monastery ,was Pope Pius Xll aware that many Jews were saved that way. Personally I think so.

    1. Author

      I doubt it would be work too well. You could make the sauce ahead but leave the last step—cooking the pasta and mixing it with the sauce and egg yolk—until the last minute.

  8. What an interesting post! I love all the history that you have with your recipe! Sounds like an recipe I'd like to try….thank you!

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