there's no place like ROME!

In college I studied abroad in Rome, Italy. I lived in an apartment with 9 girls in Campo de Fiori (an incredibly touristy part of the city). Of the 9 women I lived with I believe fate led me to the perfect roommate. My roma roomie Ashley and I hit it off immediately!

We were the perfect combination for each other. I was deemed the "travel nazi" by our study abroad group because every free minute we had I wanted to go explore another city in Italy. Most people only took 2 or 3 weekend trips while living in Rome, I took 7. Ashley was always down for an adventure. When I was being cheap she would put me in my place and tell me "you only live once". When she was feeling tired I would tell her "when are you going to be able to say you did ____ in ____ again?! LETS GO!". I couldn't have asked for a better travel buddy or friend. We've had some fun adventures back in the states too but I'll save that for future posts...

When I first met Ashley, she didn't know how to cook pasta. Literally, she put pasta in cold water and then turned the burner on. I will never forget the first time we cooked together. We still laugh about it to this day (sorry to call you out, ash!).

I can't beat on her too hard though because Ashley took me to one of my favorite restaurants in Rome - Restaurante Gioia Mia. Aside from an incredibly handsome waiter named Salim (not the most Italian name), Gioia Mia has FANTASTIC food. Like the heart shaped pizza Salim delivered when trying to win Ashley's heart. The pizza was adorable and tasty, I wish we got a picture of it.

My favorite dish was Pasta Gioia Mia - pasta with cognac, cream, peas, and prosciutto. I would order any version of a cream sauce when I was in Rome, its one of my favorite flavor combinations. Who am I kidding, to this day I typically order this! I am hands down a cream sauce girl... I will ALWAYS pick it over a tomato sauce. Ashley used to tease me when we'd go to a restaurant saying "let me guess what you're ordering...". You can't help what you love!

Looking back I wish I had realized that I was in the land of amazing food and should have tried a variety of dishes. Don't get me wrong, I tried lots of things but I also ate A LOT of cream sauce pasta!

This pasta dish is inspired by Gioia Mia and by my lovely roma roomie. Because without her I would never have eaten at this fabulous place!

Pasta Gioia Mo


1 package pappardelle pasta (or your fav pasta)
6 slices pancetta
3 shallots
8 - 10 crimini mushrooms
¼ c. cognac (I use courvoisier)
2 c. heavy cream
2 garlic cloves
½ c. grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
½ c. frozen peas

yields 5 - 6 servings

In a skillet, brown up the pancetta like you would bacon. Remove the Pancetta and place on a paper towel to drain. Don't let that pancetta grease go to waste! Brown your shallots, thinly sliced and your crimini mushrooms. Chop these however you prefer to have your veggies. I like my shallots in thin rings and my mushrooms in thin slices. When cooked until golden brown, add your cognac to deglaze the pan and get all those good brown bits off the bottom. Add your cream and 2 smashed garlic cloves (leave them whole, just smash them with the flat side of a knife). Cook this mixture for a good 20 minutes until the flavors blend and the sauce reduces a little. In the last 3 minutes, add the parmesan cheese and whisk in one circular direction until the sauce thickens. In the final minute, add the peas and chopped pancetta.

Meanwhile, boil a pot of water on the stove for your pasta. *Note that the more water you have, the faster and better your pasta will cook. Also, when salting your water, make sure you add it once the water is hot. Otherwise, you'll corrode your pan.

Once pasta is cooked, reserve 2 cups of the pasta water. Add the pappardelle to the cream sauce pan and let it absorb the sauce for 1 - 2 minutes. If you notice the sauce getting too thick, add a little of the pasta water. There's great starches in pasta water that give sauce the perfect consistency. Depending on the amount of pasta you cook and how thick your sauce is you may need to add a few tbsp of the water up to ¾ c.

Plate and serve with a little extra grated parmesan on top! Buono Appetito!

improv style:
not a boozer or don't want to spend the money on cognac? you can leave it out. i love the depth of flavor that it gives but it won't ruin the recipe to leave it out. vegetarian? leave out the pancetta and fry up some basil leaves for a different flavor and a little crunch. Not a fan of mushrooms? TONS of people aren't... you can leave them out or add your favorite veggies into the mix, like asparagus. This would be really tasty with cherry tomatoes and basil instead.


  1. I am definitely going to try this one! I love to read your stories I sit back, close my eyes and dream about your travels and pretend I can taste your amazing epicurious experiences...(is epicurious a word??? -- it should be.)
    Love, Aunt Brenda

  2. thanks aunt brenda! it's great to hear that people are enjoying what i'm doing here! you'll have to let me know how the recipe turns out! xoxo, miss you!

  3. morg! you are absolutely amazing! how you changed my life and the lives of people I try and cook for :) Thank you for this little "dedication" - best birthday present ever! Oh and here is a link to Salim and the pizza picture - http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=524003830068&set=t.10701664&theater

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