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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