In the world of ‘fast food’ we now live in, which is barely savoured on the go and certainly convenient but at times unpalatable, I find myself craving more and more my favourite Italian dishes. They are simplicity itself, prepared with care, sometimes almost rustic and unpretentious and yet totally satisfying and enjoyed slowly, taking time to enjoy not just what you are eating but the company and your surroundings.
It is then that I feel instantly transported to a family-run trattoria that we knew for years or the local cantina in Genzano near Rome where, aside from my mum’s wonderful cooking, I had some of my most memorable meals. Being a Roman, 4 of my favourite dishes are indeed a staple of Roman cuisine and I invite you to seek out the places I mention below to sample them at their best!
This simple starter is found from Tuscany all the way down to Puglia in the south. What makes it extra special is using good country bread and toasting it until golden brown. While still hot, rub your slice with good extra virgin olive oil on one side and then rub with crushed whole cloves of garlic (you need half a clove for each slice). My favourite version is with tomatoes on top. Season your flavourful tomatoes bought from the local market with salt, pepper, a dash of olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. Arrange on top and enjoy!!
The common belief about this dish is that it was originally brought to the Lazio region by the carbonari (coal men), but actually it is a relatively new dish and some say it was inspired by the American GIs with their egg and bacon rations. Although there are different versions of this dish, please note that the authentic recipe does not contain cream and in fact the smoothness is given instead by the beaten egg yolks till they form a fluid yellow cream.
For the best carbonara you can taste in Rome, go to Trattoria da Danilo (www.trattoriadadanilo.it). Here this egg-rich sauce is tossed with pecorino cheese, black pepper and spaghetti, just as I remember it! This is one of the few places left with a real mamma still in the kitchen and serves a drier, more intense sauce than most!
You might think it’s unusual to stuff and deep fry courgette flowers and some people might turn up their nose at this wonderfully simple dish and yet I’m sure that once you try it you’ll be hooked and begging for more! Unlike most local Italian food markets where courgette flowers are plentiful, here in UK they are hard to come by unless you have your own vegetable patch in your garden and are quick to pick the flowers before they wither and die.
My favourite way of enjoying this dish is by stuffing them with mozzarella cheese and anchovies and then deep frying them in a light batter till they are crisp and golden brown. You can find them on the menu of most local trattorias, so next time you are in Rome, go ahead and try them, either as a side dish or a starter and you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Saltimbocca, literally meaning ‘jumps in the mouth’ is a delicious dish made of veal topped with prosciutto and sage and cooked in dry white wine. It only takes minutes to make, but what makes this dish truly memorable in my opinion is the combination of great ingredients.
You can enjoy it at its best at Da Severino in via Luca della Robbia 21 in Rome.
I would be really curious to know your favourite ‘slow’ Italian dishes and where you enjoyed them. Also before your next visit to the Eternal City, don’t forget to download and read my free guide ’20 Fun things to do in Rome’ and also check out the places I mention in my blog post for the best gelato ever!
Buon viaggio and happy ‘slow’ eating!