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24 October 2012

Conchiglioni con Frutti di Mare al Cognac (Shell Pasta with Seafood & Cognac) & A Day Around the Pantheon Area

Going around the city with the cameras around our necks, my husband and I continuously click on the monuments that we've been taking pictures of over the years, each time with a better camera from the last.  I can see the chain we are going through.  In a few years again, better equipment, still the same route, to the city's most photographed monuments.  I showed you some shots of the Colosseo and its confines in the previous post.  Now, let me show you the Pantheon and its surrounding area. 

Go straight to last paragraph if you want to read about the recipe and skip the Pantheon and its neighborhood. 

I'm sure you have seen thousands of pictures of the Pantheon. Good, bad, mediocre, professional, spectacular, passable, impressive, "What is that?", all invoking different reactions.  The Pantheon is very difficult to photograph inside and I am still thinking of ways on how to capture it better.  The only thing I haven't tried is to lie down on the floor or paste myself against one side of the circular wall.  Armed with grand ideas when I arrive and snagged with disappointment upon exit.  I can just never get it perfectly.   Sigh.  Next time, better camera, new ideas, the same disappointment.  Or maybe I will just have to learn that not all things fit in the frame of my camera.  Some things are just best enjoyed sitting down and gazing at it.

Going inside restaurants in Rome for a full meal robs our whole afternoon away.  There are times when a good restaurant wins us over but there are also times when we just grab a slice of pizza al taglio and look for a nice quiet bench to sit on and enjoy our surroundings.  It is still one of the best and cheapest ways to dine in Rome. 

Pizza is followed by a cup of gelato.  The area of the Pantheon boasts a number of these gelaterie.  There are Gelateria della Palma, Giolitti, Grom & Il Gelato di San Crispino.  I have always loved Grom's extra noir so a cup mixed with Syrian pistachio ice cream was a treat.  After walking a few hundred meters more, we stopped in front of Il Gelato di San Crispino and my stomach called for another cup of ice cream.  I got their Valrhona chocolate flavor which I mixed with another flavor with meringue.  I really don't remember the exact flavors.  I just know that I enjoyed the chocolate.  Good, rich chocolate ice cream.  Period. 

There are four important churches around the Pantheon area.  There is the Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (Basilica of Saint Mary above Minerva) from the 13th century with its vibrant blue with gilded stars and trimmed with red ribbing.  Inside are some important works of art namely Micheangelo's statue of Cristo della Minerva and Filippino Lippi's frescoes in the Carafa Chapel.  It also houses the tombs of St. Catherine of Siena (except her head, which is in the Basilica di San Domenico in Siena) and  Fra Angelico.

Close by is the Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio di Loyola a Campo Marzio (Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola at Campus Martius) built between 1626 to 1650  dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order.  The impressive fresco that stretches across the nave ceiling was painted by Andrea Pozzo.  It depicts the works of St. Ignatius and his entry to Paradise. 

Still in the area are the 11 surviving columns of the Tempio di Adriano (Temple of Hadrian) built in 145.  It was incorporated into a 17th century papal palace which is presently occupied by the Borsa Bank.  

A few steps more and you will arrive at Piazza della Colonna where the Colonna di Marco Aurelio (Column of Marcus Aurelius), erected between 176 and 192, stands in the middle.  The spiral picture relief tells the story of Marcus Aurelius’ wars from 166 to his death.   

Nearby, is the Obelisco di Montecitorio (Obelisk of Montecitorio), also known as Solare It is an ancient Egyptian obelisk brought to Rome in 10 BC by the Roman Emperor Augustus to be used as the gnomon (a part of a sundial that casts the shadow).

The other two churches in the area are the Chiesa di Santa Maria Maddalena (Church of St. Mary Magdalene) with its Rococo facade and Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi (Church of St. Louis of the French), the National Church in Rome of France.  Both were closed when we passed by.  

During our walk, I read some menus displayed outside the restaurants.   My attention was riveted by some seafood pasta entries and remained in my memory until long after I finished my pizza and gelato.  My mind was made up.  If we don't have the time to sit down for a seafood lunch, then I had I to dedicate my time when we get home to prepare it for dinner. 

A quick trip to Eataly resulted in procuring some fresh canocchie (mantis shrimp), shrimp & calamaro.   I put them together with the conchiglioni (big shell pasta) I had at home.  I normally pair the sauce with paccheri pasta but the shells were the only ones I had.   I like pouring cognac in my seafood sauce and having no kids around for dinner, I splurged on the alcohol.   Tasty and delicious.  It was worth waiting for.

I really hope I didn't bore you to sleep with this post.  Thank you for reading and for keeping those eyes open.  Have a good week!

Conchiglioni con Frutti di Mare al Cognac 

(Shell Pasta with Seafood & Cognac)

Serves 4
  • 300 g. conchiglioni (or paccheri or any other big pasta)
  • 200 g. small shrimp
  • 100 g. big shrimp (optional)
  • 200 g. canocchie (mantis shrimp)
  • 1 big calamaro (squid), cleaned & sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons cognac
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 pinches piment d'Espelette or Espelette pepper (replace with 1 fresh chili if you don't have this)
  • parsley, chopped finely
  • 300 g. cherry tomatoes, quartered
  1. Soak canocchie in water for at least half an hour to get rid of any sand trapped in the shells.  If you don't have the time, rinse them under the faucet very well.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut the back vertically starting from the part of the head.  Set aside.
  2. Boil water in a pot for the pasta.  When it boils, add salt then drop pasta.  Cook according to the number of minutes indicated in the package or until al dente.
  3. Meanwhile, while waiting for the water to boil, warm up some oil in a large saucepan.  When it becomes hot, saute' canocchie.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a bowl.  Open 2 - 3 canocchie, taking out the meat.  See link for procedure (in Italian).  Discard shells.  Set aside with the unopened canocchie. 
  4. In the same saucepan, saute' shrimp.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Drain and transfer to the bowl with the canocchie.  Set aside.
  5. Still in the same saucepan, saute' garlic & chili (if using the fresh one).  When they turn golden, add tomatoes.  Cook for about 10 minutes.  
  6. Add calamaro.  Saute' for a couple of minutes.
  7. Put back the canocchie & shrimp.
  8. Pour cognac.  Put up the fire and let the alcohol evaporate.  
  9. Season with salt & piment d'Espelette (if using).  
  10. Add cooked pasta.  If the sauce is too dry, add some water used for cooking the pasta.  Mix for a minute.  Turn off fire.
  11. Sprinkle parsley & drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
  12. Serve hot.


  1. I love cognac in anything, what a scrumptious pasta dish!

    So glad you posted these photos. It's been a hard day for me but now you've made me excited about Rome. See you soon! :)

    1. Thank you Laura! Have a safe flight and see you soon too!

  2. I just found your Blog recently and just love it. Your pictures are spectacular and the food looks so good. I came across one of your recipes that had salsicce (sausage) what nationality is that.

    1. Hi Cindy. First of all, thank you! You're very nice! Salsiccia (singular) or salsicce (plural) are Italian. Hope that helps!

    2. I have to respond again on this, My Birth name is Salciciolli and I really don't know nothing about my heritage regarding that name. I was always told by my mother that it was French Canadian on my Fathers side. I was born in Niagara Falls, NY and I didn't know my Dad's past history, I was 3 years of age when I last seen him. I am curious about my heritage. The name of the sausage was so similar to my last name, had to ask.

    3. Hi Cindy. I also checked the last name here in the white pages in Italy and there's no other last name like that so I don't think it's Italian. I wish I can be of better help. It does have a similarity to salsiccia. Good luck in finding more information about this.

  3. OMG it looks like delicious. Your pictures are gorgeous and I will glad to come back ! (excuse me for my terrible english)

  4. Seafood salad in Italy is my favourite dish and I'm sure this would go down just as nicely. Great photos - what gorgeous churches there are in Italy.

    1. The beautiful churches here never finish, don't they? I love the seafood here too and how they are simply prepared.

  5. Beautiful salad! I just love the pasta shells. And are you kidding? I'm not gonna skip the Pantheon and its neighborhood. I love it when you share photos of the places that you visit and see. Too cool!

    1. That's so nice Tessa! Haha! Thank you for reading the whole post. That makes me feel well!

  6. Oh, Oh, Oh . . . Your beautiful photos greatly appreciated and already filed: thank you for bringing back memories! But that seafood pasta dish - I have been scrolling back and forth on a busy day for about five minutes wishing I could just reach into that screen!! Incredible eye appeal :D !

    1. I know what you mean when you just want to reach out to the screen out of frustration. It happened to me a lot already with some really gorgeous food pictures around the net. Thank you as always for dropping by!

  7. Absolutely beautiful and delicious dish. If I'm allowed to swap my life for just a second (or even longer), I'd love to switch my life with yours.... Hehehehee.. hopefully after you cook an amazing dish like this (and I get to eat). I learned SO MUCH about all the places in Italy thanks to your posts. Initially I love following your food photography and all the delicious dishes, but now I also enjoy your pictures of all the places I've never been. It's becoming more normal scene than a few months back. What do I do without your posts. My life will be very boring. It's been so much fun. I thought I should tell you since I don't mention about it much. :)

    1. Telling me about it means a lot Nami because sometimes I think that my posts are too long when I include pictures of the places I want to share. It does require more effort because I have to research about the monuments and areas but it's worth it when I receive messages like yours. Thanks a lot!

  8. How many times have I said this to you before? I soooo envy where you live right now! I love Rome and the whole of Italy, and you are so fortunate to love so close to these historical and holy places! I always enjoy the snippets of your life and travels that you post! I especially enjoy looking at photos of obscure, little Italian towns that you show us. I can only hope to visit one day! Next time I go to Rome, I'll give you a call - hehe! Have a wonderful time with Laura!

    1. I do think think that I am lucky to see all these places that are so close by whenever I want to. It's like a prolonged vacation. Do call when you are in town Jen so we can eat our way around Rome! Yes, I had fun with Laura, thanks!

  9. Beautiful dish Rowena, love the look of the seafood and pasta! We visited Rome a year ago at this time and stayed right next to the Pantheon..great memories! Love seeing your photos and sounds like you had a fun time with Laura ;-)

    1. It should be nice to look out your window and see the Pantheon from there. I wish we knew each other back then. Next time you come, let me know Patty!

  10. BRAVISSIMA! io sono Italiana e sono rimasta incantata dalle immagini che hai pubblicato e dal bellissimo piatto che hai cucinato :)


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