A Letter from Rome – Pasta, Gorgonzola & Guanciale

April 4th, 2012 / Comments 0

Dear Friends,

I can’t believe it’s been more than a week since Charles and I left Vermont. We started our Italian holiday staying with our friend Fleur who lives, works and eats in Rome.

We are now in Ortigia in Sicily, where we are continuing to live, work and eat. I’m not writing about a meal I cooked because I haven’t! Rather, I want tell you about some of the lovely sweet and savory dishes I’ve had in Rome.

Rome Street flower sm c egbert2 A Letter from Rome   Pasta, Gorgonzola & Guanciale

Paving in Rome

On our first day, after walking to the Pantheon, we had a nap while Fleur made dinner. She sauteed thin veal cutlets, each topped with a slice of prosciutto and a sage leaf, and made a sauce by reducing a bit of white wine in the sauté pan. She explained that what we were eating was called saltimbocca, which translates as “jump in mouth”. (It did.) Chicken or turkey cutlets, a thin slice of ham and fresh sage leaves would make a successful New England version.

Rome breakfast sm A Letter from Rome   Pasta, Gorgonzola & Guanciale

Bakery Breakfast

Colazione is breakfast in Italy. It is a modest but sweet meal. Eggs and bacon are saved for pasta carbonara, (spell check suggested that I spell it coronary), cornflakes are for American exchange students and oatmeal is for the horses. At the corner bakery, we chose pastries layered with apple, oozing ricotta, and others filled with chocolate and hazelnut and shared them as we walked to the cafe for cappuccino. A New England version might be a slice of apple pie, a cheese Danish or toast slathered with Nutella. I suggest serving a pot of tea because no one makes cappuccino like the Italians.

spag sm A Letter from Rome   Pasta, Gorgonzola & Guanciale

Spaghetti Sculpture

We found a small restaurant near the Forum for lunch. There were four of us so we ordered two pastas – penne with a tomato sauce flavored with pancetta, (Italian bacon), and gnocchi in a simple tomato sauce – and two salads – one, a bowl of fresh mixed greens flavored at the table, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and the other, thin slices of aged, dried beef, called bresaola, with radicchio and wedges of lemon. To recreate this meal, pick up some fresh pasta, tomato sauce and mixed greens at the market, tune your radio to the broadcast of the Metropolitan opera and forget about the bresaola.

After more walking, we found the mother of all gelaterias, Italian for ‘heavenly ice cream store’. There were at least fifty customers, some friends, some Romans and many countrymen (tourists). The cases were filled with an overwhelming variety of creamy, frozen goodness. It was easy to resist ‘The Standards’ – strawberry, chocolate, coffee, and pistachio, and even the less familiar melon, pineapple, mango, and raspberry. We met our match in the exotic section. I got four flavors in two scoops – dark chocolate with hazelnuts and walnut with figs. Alison outdid us all with one scoop of strawberry dark chocolate on top of a scoop of pear and cheese gelato. Did I mention that she’s pregnant?

Rome Street Tiber c egbert A Letter from Rome   Pasta, Gorgonzola & Guanciale

After another nap, we put on our walking shoes and crossed the Tiber. Fleur took us to her favorite restaurant in Trastevere for a six-course dinner after she had extracted my promise not to reveal its name, (jet lag made that an easy promise to keep.)

We began with sea bass carpaccio topped with white truffles, and a pasta with fava beans and more shaved white truffles. Then, we were served a steaming platter of Matthew’s favorite – pasta all’amatriciana. That’s pasta topped with a tomato sauce flavored with guanciale – un-smoked Italian bacon made with cured pig’s cheeks. Then came the steak, a thick cut of chianina beef served rare and topped with a squeeze of lemon juice and a splash of olive oil and accompanied with grilled red endive.

Rome Street sm 03 A Letter from Rome   Pasta, Gorgonzola & Guanciale

Ancient Corner

After devouring a bowl of Romanesco broccoli that had been steamed and then sauteed in olive oil with garlic we were ready for dessert. Fleur insisted that we try her favorite – gorgonzola semifreddo. Gorgonzola is soft blue cheese and semi-freddo is similar to soft serve ice cream. Blue cheese ice cream sounded pretty strange to me, until I tasted it. It was scrumptious!A small mountain of almond and lemon flavored Italian cookies accompanied the bill for dinner. We staggered home to bed. The only way I can imagine re-creating this meal is to fly to Rome, phone Fleur and offer to treat her to dinner at her favorite restaurant.

I’ll write more when I can. Sipping cappuccino in the morning, finding sandwiches in the market mid-day, watching the sun set over the sea and enjoying dinners prepared by others is taking most of my time.

Love to you,


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Making Do – Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

March 24th, 2010 / comments 10

Charles and I have been in Sicily for nearly a month and we continue to discover new corners to explore in the winding lanes of Ortigia.

vv gaetano elefteria cheese Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

I shop daily in the open-air market and my feelings about it have changed. Initially it was inspiring and fun to shop at the market and that hasn’t changed.

vv salvatore marco friend Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

What has changed is that I am no longer a stranger in the market, a tourist with a camera passing through.

vv angelo fish Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

The vendors are my friends. I know that Angelo Cappuccio is the best singer at my favorite fish stall.

vv francesco olives Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

I always buy olives and capers from Francesco and I got the grumpy vendor with the best lemons to smile.

vv mario olives 01 Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

This is my market – my community of fellow foodies.

My modestly equipped kitchen is quite serviceable and I manage to cook with many fewer tools and ingredients. Except for a battery-operated scale, I have regularly used all of the tools I brought from home. Occasionally, I wish that I had a cast iron grill pan, a food processor or a particular cookbook.

making do words 01 Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen Other than purchasing a toaster oven and a pepper mill, I have tried to “make do” with what I have. A frying pan works as the lid for the large pasta pot. A wooden orange crate from the market, topped with a coarsely woven cotton dishtowel, is the side table for a cup of tea. At a construction site I found a piece of wood and a ceramic roof tile that are now a cutting board and a fruit bowl, respectively. Gelato is impossible to resist and the small plastic bowls it comes in are a good size for serving honey or olives. Charles cut off the tops of empty plastic water bottles to make storage containers for dried herbs, garlic and leftover pasta.

olive branch Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen I used part of a small, plastic egg carton as a divided antipasto dish for olives, pickled mushrooms and artichoke hearts. A slotted plastic ricotta tub worked both as a basket to drain cutlery and as a colander for cherry tomatoes. Stems of parsley in an empty tomato paste tin, in the center of a rough weave cleaning cloth, lit by candles in ad hoc aluminum foil candle sticks made a decorative centerpiece for a cocktail party. Unbleached dish towels with bands of green and red stitching served as place mats and a piece of terrazzo picked up on a walk made a trivet for a hot pan.

vv fruit vendor Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

The unglazed foot of a porcelain dinner plate doubled as a knife sharpener. When a guest brought a handful of irises, I wrapped the stems in a collar of aluminum foil so that they would stand up in the only vase we had.

Along with make-do hardware, I have been using make-do ingredients. A limited pantry from a limited market has been an opportunity for creativity. Fish filets dusted with chickpea flour, the only flour I had, were an innovation I will repeat.

ven chocolate guiseppe Making Do   Yankee Ingenuity in the Kitchen

Honey and fresh lemon juice stirred into a cup of boiling water made a warming drink when there was a downpour between me and the closest tea bag. I have used the herb blend from the market to flavor marinades, salad dressing, and a cannellini bean spread.

Share your most creative make-do in a comment by May 15th and win a white cotton cloth from Sicily like the ones I used as place mats for a make-do dinner party.

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Market Patchwork – Ortigia – Siracusa – Sicilia

March 6th, 2010 / Comments 1

I wanted to share this market patch work.

market patchwork 4x Market Patchwork   Ortigia   Siracusa   Sicilia

A feast for your eyes with love from me to you.


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