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Updated: 2018-03-14T08:27:05.040-04:00


Anti-cold Orange Sorbet


3 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup sugar

In a saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in 1 cup of orange juice. Let it simmer for about 2 minutes. Then let it cool. Mix with the remaining orange juice and put in the fridge for a couple of hours. Prepare the sorbet using your ice cream maker, and serve it with some orange zest!

Vicenza Mac and Cheese


According to an apparently recent legend, Thomas Jefferson invented macaroni and cheese. Truth is that pasta and cheese was served long before Jefferson declared himself a fan of macaroni. And by the time of Jefferson, the word macaroni was used as is used the Italian word maccheroni: basically a synonym of dry pasta without an associated shape. In fact, depending on the Italian region, maccheroni may refer to smooth rigatoni, square-shaped spaghetti or even tagliatelle.Although Jefferson did import to America the first pasta maker for his own macaroni and we do know that in 18th-century North America people enjoyed pasta and cheddar baked together, we don’t know which shape of pasta nor which recipe Jefferson liked. But what we do know is that Jefferson pretty much enjoyed his travels in Northern Italy, and that he admired the works of Palladio. In fact, Jefferson followed Palladio’s principles to design his house in Monticello. Andrea Palladio was one of the most important Italian architects. His works can be admired all around the province of Venice, but mostly in Vicenza. His vision of classic architecture pushed Renaissance architecture to a whole new level that even anticipated neoclassical style, which was popular by the beginning of the 19th century. When visiting Monticello you can see the result of Palladio’s influence on American neoclassical architecture, which became the official style of the new nation. Actually, Monticello reminds you a lot of La Rotonda, a fabulous villa in the outskirts of Vicenza designed by Palladio. Well, all this being said here is my interpretation of this American staple.Ingredients½ lb whole wheat macaroni2 cups milk1½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (+½ cup to put on top)½ cup fontina cheese, grated2 Tbsp corn starchSalt, pepper1 Tbsp butter2 Tbsp olive oil½ tsp dry mustard½ tsp nutmegWhile you cook your pasta, preheat the oven to 350F. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter. Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Whisk in the corn starch dissolving any lumps, and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Pour in the milk. Add some salt and pepper, the dry mustard and nutmeg. Let it simmer until it thickens a bit. Add the cheese and let it melt while you stir. When the pasta is al dente, drain it but reserve about half a cup of the cooking water. In a baking dish, mix the pasta, melted cheese sauce and reserved water. Pour about half a cup of grated cheese on top and bake for about 20 minutes or until a golden-brown crust forms. TipsJefferson’s Italian pasta maker, the first in America as I mentioned, didn’t last long. Jefferson, being an ingenious man, made drawings to put together his very own machine. However, records say that after his Italian machine broke, he decided to import his macaroni… from France!Both Monticello and La Rotonda are UNESCO world heritage sites. Monticello is the only house so recognized in the US.[...]

Succulent bistecca alla fiorentina


Italians don’t have a lot of grilled beef recipes. But when Italians do it, they do it right. Beef doesn’t need to be marinated, because if you do your beef won’t sear as it should and then it won’t be able to retain all the goodness of its own juices. That’s why real bistecca alla fiorentina (steak in the style of Florence) calls for nothing besides salt and pepper, added only when the beef has already been seared on the grill. Bistecca alla fiorentina is a staple of Tuscan cuisine; it was even described by Artusi in his famous book.

4 thick porterhouse steaks, at room temperature
Salt, Pepper

Bistecca alla fiorentina has to be prepared on an outdoor coal grill. The grill has to be hot, but no flames — mi raccomando. Place the steaks on the grill. Grill next to the hot coals for about 2 minutes. Raise the grill and continue grilling for another 3 minutes. Turn the steaks over and salt the seared side. Grill for 5-7 minutes for rare (10-12 minutes in total). Salt and pepper the unsalted side of the steaks. Let the steaks sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Ideally your steaks should be chianina beef (the traditional breed in Tuscany) and one-and-a-half or two-fingers thick (about 1 – 1 ½ inches).

The word bistecca comes from English beef-steak.

Leftover turkey Panini


The perfect ending for Thanksgiving!

Ingredients (2 panini)
1 medium loaf whole wheat bread
4 slices cooked turkey breast
4 slices provolone cheese
Pesto mayo (3 Tbsp mayo + 1 Tbsp pesto)
Cranberry sauce for dipping

Choose a nice and crunchy whole wheat bread. I chose one with cereals, walnuts and raisins. Cut the bread in half and then open it. Spread some pesto mayonnaise on both sides of the bread. Fill your sandwich with sliced turkey breast and provolone cheese. Set some leftover cranberry sauce in a small plate for dipping your sandwich into! Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!!!

Warm up the turkey. By doing so you’ll activate the fabulous pesto aroma. Or heat the whole sandwich in the oven or in a panini grill until the cheese melts.

(image) (image) (image) (image)

Cotoletta alla Milanese


(image) My great-grandmother was from Milan, and maybe because of that my mother and I love breaded cutlets which are a staple of Milanese cuisine. So, every time I go to Milan I not only shop but I also have a good cotoletta alla Milanese.

4 veal cutlets with bone
2 eggs
4-6 Tbsp butter
1 cup breadcrumbs
Salt, pepper

Cut away any fat and pound each cutlet gently. Beat the eggs slightly, add a touch of freshly ground pepper, and pour the eggs into a shallow bowl. Set the breadcrumbs in another bowl. Start a standard breading procedure: dip the cutlets into the eggs and then dip them into the breadcrumbs. Sauté the milanesas in a preheated saucepan with butter (for a golden result shallow-fry the cutlets adding more butter). Over medium-high heat, it won’t take a lot to be ready: 4 minutes on one side, turn once, and then 2-3 minutes on the other side for medium rare. Drain the cutlets on paper towels, salt them and serve with sweet potato oven fries. Not an Italian side dish I know, but they are better for you than traditional fries and they are just perfect for holiday dinners!

Sweet potato oven fries Ingredients
2 large sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
Kosher salt

Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes. Cut the potato into wedges. Toss the sweet potatoes wedges with the olive oil, cinnamon and salt. Set them onto a baking sheet forming a single layer, and bake in a 425F preheated oven for about 30 minutes until tender and golden brown (while they're baking, turn the potatoes a couple of times).

The words cotoletta and cutlet actually have the same origin!

Do cotolette alla Milanese remind you of Wiener schnitzel? Apparently Marshal Radetzky (yep, the same as in Strauss’s march) introduced veal cutlets to Austria after living in Milan. However, Austrians are very proud of their cutlets so they don’t agree with the Italian origin.

Berlines – I Krapfen Cileni


I know you loved my doughnutella mini krapfen recipe. As I mentioned before, Krapfen are a sweet treat very common in Alto Adige, the German-speaking region of northern Italy. In fact, Krapfen are typical doughnuts of the whole German-speaking world. Whereas in Italy and Austria these doughnuts are known as Krapfen, in Germany they use the word Berliner. In Chile, where German migration influenced Chilean pastry-making, Krapfen are known as berlines. Berlines are usually filled with custard, jam or dulce de leche. In addition, Berlines are now the quintessential Chilean snack for breaks at school. So, if you like doughnuts you’ll love Berlines, filled with sweet dulce de leche. Krapfen and berlines share another common feature: Krapfen come from the region of the Dolomite Mountains in Italy, and berlines come from Chile, the country of Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia. Don’t you think that Torres del Paine could easily blend into the Italian Dolomite region?Ingredients (30-40 mini berlines)4 cups all-purpose flour2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast1 cup warm milk (+ 1 tsp sugar)1 tsp vanilla extract1 stick of butter (softened)1/3 cup sugar2 large eggspinch of saltPeanut oil for fryingDulce de leche for fillingConfectioner’s sugar for dustingJust follow the directions for my doughnutellas, but fill them using dulce de leche.TipsIn Canada, these doughnuts are called Bismarck doughnuts.Today is Chile's National Day! Happy Chile Day!!! [...]

Acciughe al pomodoro - anchovy antipasto


After tasting this traditional antipasto, you’ll say: ‘who knew fresh anchovies were this good’!

1.5 lbs fresh anchovies
1 can San Marzano tomatoes (28 oz), drained and diced
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
Salt, pepper

(image) First, remove the scales of the anchovies with a knife under cold running water. Rinse the anchovies. Cut right above the heads and then remove the heads together with the insides. Cut the anchovies lengthwise and remove the spine. Pat the anchovies dry using paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Pour half of the canned tomatoes into a baking dish. Pour the anchovies over the tomatoes. Mix the garlic with half of the parsley and pour this mixture over the anchovies. Sprinkle with some salt and cover with the rest of the tomatoes. Bake for about 20 minutes, and serve warm with the rest of the parsley on top.

I know, cleaning anchovies sounds like a post-mortem, but it’s not really that hard and the flavor of fresh anchovies is totally worth it.


Organic Tropical Sorbet


(image) Sometimes just a couple of days back at work or at school are enough to make us dream of summer again! My organic tropical sorbet is perfect to recall those days at the beach! And it’s so simple you’ll want to do it even when you’re on vacation.

3 cups mixed tropical fruits
½ - 2/3 cup organic agave nectar

Just puree the fruit with the agave nectar using an electric blender. Pour the puree into your ice cream machine and let the machine do its work. After 20-25 minutes you’ll be tasting a tropical paradise, wherever you are!

I used Trader Joe’s tropical fruit trio: mango, papaya, pineapple


Cooling down the heat


(image) Some of the most traditional antipasti are based on very old rules proposed by Galen, the second century Greek physician. Following Galenic standards, to compensate for their imbalanced nature some foods needed to be eaten with some opposite food. According to Galen’s point of view, melons have a cooling effect on ham, a hot and dry ingredient. So, what we have here is prosciutto crudo and melon! The ultimate antipasto! In addition, cold and moist figs are heated by ham: prosciutto and figs!

Prosciutto e melone
1 cantaloupe, sliced
7 oz prosciutto crudo, thinly sliced

Prosciutto e fichi
8 figs, quartered
7 oz prosciutto crudo, thinly sliced
(Optional: olive oil, pepper)

Prosciutto, melone e fichi
4-6 figs, quartered
Slices of melon (cantaloupe and honeydew)
7 oz prosciutto, thinly sliced

Simply arrange fruit and prosciutto as your creativity tells you, and serve on a nice serving dish!

Spaghetti con le vongole in bianco


Spaghetti con le vongole – spaghetti with clams, a specialty from the region of Campania – is one of the easiest Mediterranean dishes you can think of. This is my favorite version of the dish, called in bianco because no tomatoes are added. With this dish, tasting the flavors of the Mediterranean Sea is guaranteed!

1 lb spaghetti (or vermicelli)
2 lbs small clams
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 Tbsp olive oil
1 bunch of Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Discard any clams with broken shells or any clams that are open and that do not close when you firmly try to close them with your fingers. Rapidly wash the clams and then let them soak in abundant cold and salted water for at least 1 hour (you can let the clams soak in the fridge overnight).

In a saucepan, heat 4 Tbsp of olive oil. After you begin to cook the pasta, add the garlic to the saucepan with the heated olive oil and sauté the garlic over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add the clams and some salt and pepper. Cover the saucepan with a lid and let the clams cook for about 3-4 minutes, until all the clams are open. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and toss it over the clams. Add some parsley and 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Give a quick stir and serve.

Mediterranean clams are tiny and flavorful. In North America, use Manila clams.

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Doughnutella mini Krapfen


Krapfen is a typical doughnut, usually filled with jam, from the Italian region of Südtirol. My doughnutella mini Krapfen are a tiny version of this northern Italian treat, filled with Nutella of course! Since they are smaller than regular Krapfen my mini Krapfen are also more sophisticated and perfect for chic cocktail parties – just ask Donatella Versace about my doghnutella ;) !Ingredients (30-40 mini Krapfen)4 cups all-purpose flour2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast1 cup warm milk (+ 1 tsp sugar)1 stick of butter (softened)1/3 cup sugar2 large eggspinch of saltPeanut oil for fryingNutella for fillingConfectioner’s sugar for dustingDissolve the yeast in sugared warm milk and let it double its volume. In the meantime, put the flour in a bowl and make la fontana (a hole in the flour, where you'll mix the other ingredients). Then add the dissolved and active yeast, the sugar, the butter, and the 2 eggs and begin to stir with a fork, gradually incorporating the flour. When everything is incorporated, knead the dough with your hands for about 8 minutes. Then, let the dough rest for at least 45 minutes inside the bowl and covered. When the dough has doubled its volume, punch it down and knead the dough for 2 minutes. On a well-floured surface and using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a rectangle of about 1/3 inch thick. Cut out the dough using a round cookie cutter. Let the cutouts rest for about 15 minutes before frying.Heat the oil in a big but not too high skillet. When the temperature is around 350 F start frying your mini Krapfen. Fry them in batches until golden brown, turning them once. Drain on paper towels and allow your mini Krapfen to cool before filling them with Nutella (cut on the side for filling or use a pastry nozzle). Dust with powdered sugar. I bet you can’t have only one![...]

Lemony spaghetti


(image) This is a stress-free recipe for a simple dish that just tastes like summer.

1 pound spaghetti
2 organic lemons
2 ½ - 3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil

Cut one lemon in half and put one half in the salted water you’ll use to cook the pasta. Grate the peel of the remaining 1 ½ lemons. Bring the water to a boil and cook the pasta. Just a couple of minutes before the pasta is al dente, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the lemon zest and some salt to the melted butter and give a quick stir. If you prefer, add a touch of olive oil to avoid burning the butter. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and pour the spaghetti into the lemon-scented butter sauce. Give a quick stir, and if you like add another touch of olive oil, and serve.

Just think how good this recipe is when you use lemons from Sorrento! Having this dish on a terrace facing the Mediterranean Sea is an indulgent way of enjoying the pleasures of summer!

In search of fresh mozzarella


On your way to Paestum, from Salerno to Battipaglia, the best thing you can do is to stop at a caseificio and buy some fresh mozzarella. And I mean the real thing: mozzarella di bufala campana DOP. After tasting this it’s so hard to accept that the yellowish-and-gummy cheese you buy shredded for your pizzas can be sold as mozzarella. Made from domestic water-buffalo’s milk, mozzarella cheese is so good that some call it ‘regina’ (queen) of Mediterranean cuisine or ‘oro bianco’ (white gold). Nobody knows how water buffalos ended up in Italy (they live in swampy regions of Asia), but what really matters is that water buffalo’s milk is dense and tasty and it has a higher content of both protein and fat than cow’s milk. Because of this higher content of fat, mozzarella cheese has a creamier texture and flavor than ordinary cheese.Mozzarella is creamy and soft, light and fresh. In a way, real mozzarella summarizes Italian cuisine: it’s simple and yet perfect because of the high quality of the ingredients. You don’t need anything fancy to taste perfection: just fresh mozzarella and a drizzle of good olive oil and that’s it! Or add some tomatoes from Campania and basil from coastal zones of Italy and you get the most famous Italian salad: insalata caprese.TipsThe name mozzarella comes from the Italian verb mozzare (to cut), because of how the cheese-makers cut the cheese with their hands to shape the mozzarella.Branching outInsalata capreseCaprese salad in TechnicolorCrostini capresiPizza margherita[...]



If someday you’re somewhere around Naples or the Amalfi Coast, please go to Paestum (about 62 mi / 100 km SE of Naples). Often neglected by foreigners, Paestum is the classic Roman name for the city of Poseidonia, a Greek colony founded in the 7th century BC. Close to the sea, Paestum was dedicated to Poseidon (hence its Greek name) but Hera and Athena were greatly worshipped there too. Because of the fertile soil and strategic position, Paestum rapidly became a large and prosperous city. Grandiose temples were built, and Paestum also became an important place of procession and devotion. In 550 BC a temple was built to honor Hera. A century later, another temple was added to create a huge complex devoted to the goddess. Thousands of offertory statues of Hera were made for the people who came to praise the wife of Zeus. Not too far away, a temple dedicated to Athena was erected (500 BC). All three temples can be seen today. In fact, these temples are ranked among the best-conserved Greek temples in the whole world. Only one temple in Greece is actually said to be better preserved than Paestum’s temples. In addition, the second temple of Hera is considered by some specialists as the most perfectly executed Doric temple in the world because of its architectural details and perfect proportions. The defensive walls and the Heraion, a temple outside the city limits, are worth a visit too.Beyond the glorious temples that are enough to take your breath away, the archeological site has even more to offer. Whereas in Pompeii you can enjoy the magnificence of Roman wall paintings, in Paestum you can discover the enigmatic Greek frescoes. Roman frescoes were inspired by the art of the Greeks, and some say the Roman copies never attained the level of mastery of the Greeks. However the remains of Greek painting beyond vase-art are almost non-existent. The paintings in Greek temples vanished (actually every Greek statue was painted in vivid colors) and no volcano covered a city as Vesuvius did with Pompeii. Whereas Etruscan frescoes were preserved because they painted the walls of underground tombs, the Greeks did not have the custom of painting the insides of tombs. But in Paestum, because of the contact with Italic peoples, the Greeks acquired this custom of painting the insides of tombs.Good for us, because in 1968 a tomb was found in a small necropolis in Paestum. The tomb of the diver (tomba del tuffatore) dates from the first half of the 5th century and is “the only example of Greek painting with figured scenes dating from the Orientalizing, Archaic, or Classical periods to survive in its entirety. Among the thousands of Greek tombs known from this time (roughly 700–400 BC), this is the only one to have been decorated with frescoes of human subjects” (Holloway, The Tomb of the Diver, American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 110 n. 3, 2006). The frescoes found inside the tomb were first thought to be Etruscan because as I told you there is no evidence in Greece of painted tombs. Also the diver in this enigmatic fresco is a subject that is absent in other expressions of Greek art such as pottery painting, but there are some examples of this subject in Etruscan art. The fresco that covered the lid of the tomb depicts a diver in the act of jumping, and there’s a huge debate about what it represents. Some say it is a representation of the deceased jumping into the afterlife. On the walls of the tomb, scenes of a symposium were depicted.The symposium, the all-male drinking and debate party, was a Greek social institution and therefore is a familiar scene in Greek art; for example Greek pottery of that time showed similar scenes. The symposium scenes and the techniques employed [...]

Jump-in-mouth Saltimbocca alla romana


After the unification of Italy, Pellegrino Artusi established the basis for an Italian national cuisine when he became the first cookbook author writing a single book with recipes from every Italian region. Artusi was also a food critic. Around the end of the 19th century, Artusi described a delightful dish he had had in a trattoria in Rome. This dish included veal, prosciutto and sage. And it was such a delectable dish that it just jumped into your mouth: saltimbocca alla romana (which is Italian for jump-in-mouth, Roman style).Ingredients8 veal cutlets4 oz prosciutto crudo8 fresh sage leaves3 Tbsp butter1 cup white wine1 big handful flourSalt, pepperUsing a meat pounder, pound your cutlets until they get really thin. While you pound the meat sprinkle it with some salt and pepper. Set the flour in a shallow bowl and then coat the veal cutlets with flour. Atop each cutlet lay a piece of prosciutto crudo and then a sage leaf. Fix the prosciutto and sage leaf into the meat by using a toothpick. Heat the butter in a large skillet. When the butter is melted add the veal, prosciutto side up. Sauté the veal until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Carefully turn the veal and cook for a minute, taking care not to burn the prosciutto or the leaves. Take the veal out of the skillet and place it in a serving plate, prosciutto side up. Pour the wine into the skillet, give a quick stir and let the alcohol evaporate for a minute. Pour the thin wine sauce on top of the veal, serve and let the veal cutlets jump in your mouth (remove the toothpicks first)!TipsChicken saltimbocca? Nice idea, but when in Rome do as the Romans do (which means using veal for your saltimbocca)!If you have read my previous posts on Roman cuisine you already know that Romans like recipes that are simple, easy and delicious. Saltimbocca alla romana meets all these criteria. But Roman cuisine is also a poor one, so the use of butter (an ingredient almost inexistent in southern Italy) puzzled me. Last time I was in Rome I asked my butcher (a lovely genuine Roman lady) and she confirmed to me the use of butter. So, even though olive oil would be a more Roman ingredient, follow this recipe and use butter.Butter is not the only odd ingredient in this recipe. Veal cutlet is a pretty nice cut of meat and certainly not among the cheapest. It is true that Roman cuisine is a cucina povera, but it’s also true that in Rome you also find Vatican City. And as Romans say “Chi se vo' impara' a magna', da li preti bisogna che va” (if you want to learn how to eat, you have to go to see the priests). In other words, for centuries while common people struggled to prepare something to eat, the Pope enjoyed a splendorous cuisine where meat and dairy products were served frequently.[...]

Wonder why I haven't been posting?


I haven't been posting just because I'm on vacation... in sunny Italy, of course!!!

Buone vacanze anche a voi!!!

Spaghetti alla carbonara


Yep, this is another rustic and traditional pasta recipe from Rome. No one exactly knows the origin of this dish, but because carbonara is a cognate of the Italian word carbone (charcoal), some people say this pasta was initially prepared for charcoal workers who needed a hearty meal during their hard work day. In a way there is some truth in this statement since at the beginning of the 20th century, Italian laborers used to carry simple pasta dishes to work, such as spaghetti cacio e pepe. However, coal miners worked in Umbria (and not in Rome), and in fact there are no historical records of spaghetti alla carbonara before World War II. This suggests that a possible origin of this dish was the Italian interpretation of what the American and Canadian soldiers ate while they were in Rome during WW II. Basically, Italians took the quintessential North American breakfast based on eggs and bacon and served it with … pasta, of course!Ingredients1 lb spaghetti5 oz guanciale, diced4 oz pecorino romano cheese, grated4 egg yolks1 eggOlive oilSalt, pepperIn a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the entire egg. Gradually add the cheese while vigorously whisking the egg mixture. Add some freshly ground black pepper to the egg mixture. Meanwhile, begin to cook the pasta. In a saucepan, heat about 1 Tbsp of olive oil, then sauté the diced guanciale until it turns golden. About 1 minute before the pasta is cooked al dente (according to the cooking time on the label instructions), add a couple of Tbsps of the cooking water to the egg mixture. Does it sound familiar? We are tempering the eggs, just as we did when making gelato. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and toss it directly into the pan where you sautéed the guanciale. Then toss the spaghetti into the bowl with the egg mixture. The eggs were raw, but the heat of the pasta will cook them. If you are not convinced of this, make sure you are using pasteurized eggs. Add the guanciale. Give a quick stir and serve your spaghetti alla carbonara with freshly ground black pepper and more grated pecorino romano cheese.TipsCommon mistakes when people make spaghetti alla carbonara outside Italy: adding onions, butter and cream. The use of cream is something you actually can find in the north of Italy, but this is a Roman dish, so, no cream.In North America, people associate carbonara sauce with the erroneous version with cream and butter. At the same time, North Americans prepare “coal miner’s spaghetti” which not only has a name that seems to be a translation from Italian (if we believe the mine worker origin), but also the way you prepare coal miner’s spaghetti is more like how you prepare spaghetti alla carbonara. However, coal miner’s spaghetti calls for bacon instead of guanciale, people use a combination of Parmesan and Romano cheeses, parsley is also added, and the ultimate Italian-American ingredient is not absent either: garlic.Despite the simple ingredients of this dish, spaghetti alla carbonara is pretty tricky to make. Usually what happens is that you get scrambled eggs instead of a creamy egg sauce. The use of cream and onion makes this recipe foolproof, but you should try the traditional recipe.[...]

I dintorni di Roma – the surroundings of Rome


When you are in Rome, you’re forced to make some hard decisions. For example suppose that you’re at the Fontana di Trevi and that you want to go to Piazza Navona. Well, there are several routes, each one with incredible things to see. And, because of constraints on both time and energy, when you choose one route you’re missing all the things on the other available routes. On the other hand, the what-to-see lists provide the essential highlights, but there’re plenty of attractions that are not mentioned in the guides. So let’s face it: it takes more than a lifetime to get to know Rome. I’d say that 3-4 days is the very minimum to see the top 5 Roman essentials: St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Fontana di Trevi and the Piazza Navona (visiting the Pantheon in between). But I’d recommend to everyone staying in Rome for at least 5-6 days. Actually, I always tell my friends to stay in Rome for at least a week. That way, you can leave one day to visit the surroundings of Rome. Again, you have a lot of alternatives: I castelli di Roma, the Etruscan ruins, il lido di Roma (the Roman shore) … but I have two suggestions about what to see in the surroundings of Rome: Tivoli and Ostia Antica. First, I have a lot of friends who complain about not having had enough time to go to Pompeii when they were visiting Italy – usually people visit Rome, Florence and Venice on their first trip to Italy, leaving Naples for a second visit. Although Naples and Pompeii are not that far from Rome, they’re not that close either. If you don’t have enough time to go to Pompeii, then Ostia Antica is the perfect substitute. Ostia Antica is the ancient harbor of Rome, and now a huge archeological site. Getting there is pretty simple since Ostia Antica is easily reachable by taking the Roman subway! Ostia Antica is full of ruins from imperial times, so there you can have that feeling of experiencing life in an ancient city. There you can visit the old theater, the forum, some nice houses, the public bathrooms, the market and old restaurants. One thing you don’t find in Pompeii is the ruins of insulae: the apartment buildings of ancient Rome. You’ll be impressed with how huge and tall they were. Since Ostia was abandoned, mainly because of several attacks by pirates, and not covered by lava and ashes as Pompeii was, the remaining wall frescoes are scarce and far from being as impressive as the ones in the Pompeii area. However, in Ostia Antica you can find really nice mosaic floors. Finally, one thing to think about … if Ostia Antica was the ancient harbor of Rome, then where is the sea? (Ostica Antica now lies about 2 miles from the sea.) Another very interesting place to visit not far from Rome is Tivoli. There you have two attractions, each one being a perfect example of the lifestyle of the rich and famous of two different eras. On one side of the town of Tivoli, you find the Villa Adriana. Hadrian’s Villa was the retreat home of the Roman emperor Hadrian, who wanted to escape all of the gossiping, intrigues and troubles of the capital’s Palatine Hill and its court. The Villa was composed of more than 30 buildings, including various palaces, theaters, thermae (individual spas), libraries and temples. In one word, the Villa provided tutti i confort (every comfort) an emperor needed. Everything in the Villa was inspired by the emperor’s numerous travels around the known world, especially to Egypt and Greece. These destinations in a way reflect Hadrian’s passion for the Greek youth Antinous, who mysteriously died[...]

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe


As you might have noticed, Roman recipes for pasta are extremely simple to make. Spaghetti cacio e pepe means spaghetti with cheese and black pepper, and with these two ingredients you can enjoy a delectable dish of pasta!

1 lb spaghetti
7-8 oz pecorino romano cheese, grated
1 Tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Pour the grated cheese into a bowl. Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water. Just minutes before the pasta is ready, take a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water and add it to the cheese. Whisk until a creamy paste forms (use enough hot cooking water to achieve this). When the pasta is almost al dente (about 1 minute before the total cooking time), drain it and toss the spaghetti into a saucepan with 1 Tbsp olive oil and freshly ground black pepper (reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water). Quickly sauté the spaghetti. Add the creamy cheese mixture and stir for about 1 minute. You may need to add some more cooking water to keep the creamy texture of the sauce. Serve hot with a nice touch of grated pecorino cheese and black pepper.

If you know some Italian probably you’re more familiar with the word formaggio for cheese. Although formaggio is the most usual word, in Italian you can also say cacio for cheese and, in some dialects, the word cacio is more common. Actually, also in Latin there were two ways of saying cheese: cāseus and formāticus. While the original word for cheese was cāseus, molded cheese was called cāseus formātus, which gave origin to the abbreviation formāticus. Formāticus is the origin of the modern words formaggio in Italian, fromage in French and formatge in Catalan. Cāseus is the origin of the modern words cacio in Italian, queso in Spanish, queijo in Portuguese, Kaese in German, and even cheese in English!

Bucatini all’amatriciana


Bucatini all’amatriciana is another very Roman recipe, a red version of spaghetti alla gricia, where the influence of Neapolitan cuisine appears with the use of tomato. While the original recipe comes from the town of Amatrice (now in the Lazio region but before in the Abruzzo region), it is in Rome where people eat bucatini with this sauce. But in Amatrice, sugo all’amatriciana, which means sauce in the Amatrice style, is almost always served with spaghetti. Actually Amatrice claims the invention of spaghetti.Sugo all’amatriciana is very simple to prepare, although lots of people make the mistake of adding onion to it. Even Italians do it. Even some Romans do it, but people never do it in Amatrice. I was watching Lidia Bastianich on TV once, and I almost fell down when she was blanching some onions for her amatriciana. Good Lord! I must say though that in Italy adding onion to a sauce for pasta is a question of personal taste, but you must take note of the interesting lack of onion in a lot of traditional recipes: puttanesca, amatriciana, arrabbiata, carbonara … no onion at all! And yet, especially when sauce is prepared outside Italy, people tend to use onion. In Chile, where pasta is one of the most common dishes, people use big chunks of onion in their sauces. I’ve heard of some Italians that freak out at how oniony Chilean sauces are! (And I’ve heard of lots of Italians who freak out at how garlicky American sauces are, but that’s another story.)Ingredients1 lb bucatini4-5 oz guanciale12 oz passata di pomodoro (good quality tomato sauce) or canned San Marzano tomatoes1 cup white wine1 Tbsp olive oil1 pinch peperoncino (red pepper flakes)4 Tbsp pecorino romano cheese, gratedSalt, black pepperDice the guanciale. In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the diced guanciale with the olive oil and peperoncino. When the guanciale begins to lose its fat, add the wine. Sauté until the guanciale turns golden. Take the guanciale from the saucepan and reserve. Start cooking the pasta in salted boiling water. While the pasta is cooking, heat the tomato sauce in the same saucepan where you sautéed the guanciale. Add the guanciale and continue heating the sauce until the pasta is al dente. When the pasta is ready, drain it and toss it directly into the saucepan with the sauce. Give a quick stir, add some black pepper and serve with pecorino cheese!TipsIn Rome some locals call this sauce matriciana. That’s why some people argue that the Roman version with bucatini (and onion according to some other people) has nothing to do with the amatriciana from Amatrice (with absolutely no onion, often served with spaghetti, and sometimes using pancetta instead of guanciale, the latter being considered too poor as an ingredient). Actually they claim that the word matriciana comes from the Latin word matrix in reference to motherhood and matriarchy: an argument that, they claim, shows how ancient the Roman recipe is (they forget that tomatoes were introduced from America though). However, a common feature of Romanesco or the Italian dialect from Rome is dropping vowels, so not surprisingly people simply say matriciana in Rome.[...]

Spaghetti ajo, ojo e peperoncino


This is another extremely simple recipe from the Roman kitchen to yours. If you know some Italian I’m sure you’ll be surprised by the name of this recipe. Maybe you would recognize better aglio, olio e peperoncino. While aglio, olio e peperoncino is standard Italian, ajo, ojo e peperoncino is Roman dialect or romanesco. Both mean garlic, oil and hot pepper. As a matter of fact, these are exactly the ingredients we’ll use.

1 lb spaghetti
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
5 Tbsp Olive oil
1½ Tbsp peperoncino (red pepper flakes – or 2 small and fresh hot peppers)

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water. Just minutes before the pasta is ready, sauté the garlic with the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the peperoncino. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and reserve about ¼ cup of the cooking water. Toss the pasta over the quick soffritto and add the reserved starchy water. Give a quick stir and serve!

Bucatini alla gricia - a pristine recipe from Rome


(image) This might be the easiest pasta dish to make! And this recipe is the real McCoy, in the sense that other traditional Roman dishes like bucatini all’amatriciana and spaghetti alla carbonara were inspired by bucatini alla gricia.

1 lb bucatini pasta
5 oz guanciale (Italian unsmoked bacon), diced
4 Tbsp pecorino romano cheese, grated
Freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water. In the meantime, in a saucepan over medium heat sauté the guanciale until nice and golden. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and reserve about ¼ cup of the cooking water. Toss the pasta over the guanciale, add the cheese, some freshly ground black pepper, and the reserved starchy water. Give a quick stir and serve!

Pasta alla gricia is supposed to come from the town of Grisciano near Rome. The absence of tomatoes indicates its ancient origins: pasta alla gricia was eaten before tomatoes were introduced to Europe from South America.

Bucatini are like thick spaghetti with a transversal hole inside. Buco means hole in Italian.

The traditional recipe calls for guanciale, a kind of Italian unsmoked bacon (actually, cured and unsmoked pig jowl). However, New York City is the only place I know in North America where you can find guanciale (in one store in the middle of the meat district). So, it's only for this reason that you’re temporarily allowed to use pancetta or unsmoked bacon instead… but if you’re in New York, then you MUST get some guanciale! The same thing will apply to every recipe calling for guanciale.

Fierce penne from Rome – penne all’arrabbiata


(image) This is a super simple pasta dish to make and a perfect example of the Roman cucina povera. Penne all’arrabbiata means penne pasta in a rage… and their anger is expressed by being really spicy!

1 lb penne pasta
1 ¾ cup passata di pomodoro or good tomato sauce
2 Tbsp peperoncino (red pepper flakes – or 2 small and fresh hot peppers)
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat and using 2 Tbsp of olive oil, sauté the garlic together with the peperoncino for a minute or so (be careful since we don’t want to burn the garlic). Add the tomatoes and the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Let the sauce cook for about 5 minutes, just until the pasta is al dente. Drain the pasta and toss it over the sauce. Give a quick stir, add the parsley, and your penne all’arrabbiata is ready to serve!

Instead of tomato sauce, you can also use about 15 oz ripe tomatoes (peeled, chopped and seeds discarded) or 15 oz canned San Marzano tomatoes (pelati).

If you want a less-angry version of penne all’arrabbiata, use 1 garlic clove and 1 Tbsp peperoncino.

In Italy, pasta is condita, which means seasoned with a sauce. That’s why you’d probably find traditional recipes a bit scarce in sauce by international standards.

So, there’s no cheese in this recipe? In traditional recipes, usually cheese is not added to a sauce when you’re using garlic.

Despite my love for Giada de Laurentiis, arrabbiata sauce does not call for pancetta or bacon. If you use pancetta then you’ll be getting something closer to pasta all’amatriciana. The use of onion is also a widespread mistake. In sum, onion, pancetta and cheese (even pecorino romano) are considered a sacrilege to the traditional recipe!

Cucina romanesca – Exploring Roman cuisine


Roma è una città meridionale – Rome is a southern city – used to say my grandfather, proud of his deep northern Italian roots. You can really tell this is true when you look at what Romans eat. In Italy there are two different pasta regions: while in the North we prefer fresh pasta – pasta fresca – (and sometimes we prefer rice), in the South people use dried pasta – pasta secca. And Romans love dried pasta. In fact, they die for spaghetti! In Rome you’ll find the apotheosis of recipes calling for spaghetti: spaghetti alla carbonara, spaghetti cacio e pepe, spaghetti alla carrettiera, spaghetti alla gricia, spaghetti ajo, ojo e peperoncino... Romans love their spaghetti so much that they dispute with Naples the origin of spaghetti alla puttanesca! But Romans do not only love spaghetti. Rigatoni (such as in rigatoni alla pajata), bucatini (think of bucatini all’amatriciana) and penne (penne all’arrabbiata) are also dried pasta shapes Romans like.Roman cuisine, and by extension the cuisine of the whole Lazio region, is also a cucina povera or peasant cuisine. No dairy products, almost no butter, no cream… so, carbonara sauce with cream? Heresy! And that’s also why you’ll never find fettuccine Alfredo in a trattoria in Rome. Actually, Alfredo sauce doesn’t even exist in Italy. So, if you visit Rome please don’t ask where you can have the “authentic” fettucine Alfredo or you’ll hear a loud “mai sentito!” (never heard of it!).Also don’t expect garlic bread in Rome, because, you know, it doesn’t exist in Italy. However, Romans do have wonderful bruschette and crostini, which constitute a perfect starter or antipasto for your meal.Broccoli is also a very Roman thing, but artichokes are the quintessential Roman vegetable: carciofi alla romana, carciofi alla matticella, carciofi alla giudia. Artichokes Jewish style or carciofi alla giudia is a dish that comes from the important Jewish community – a community living in Rome since antiquity but also including refugees from Spain after their expulsion in 1492 and from Naples, by then under Spanish rule. Another legacy of the Roman ghetto is the love for deep fried food: baccalà alla romana (deep fried cod) and fiori di zucca fritti (deep fried zucchini blossoms).What about meat? Roman cuisine is a poor one, so what people could afford was the offal of butchered animals: kidney, liver, tripe, entrails… I assure you that most of the quinto quarto (or offal in Italian) tastes better than it sounds. So, if you are brave enough you won’t regret asking for coda alla vaccinara (oxtail) or trippa alla trasteverina (tripe).Are you thinking of having pizza in Rome? Although pizza is something you should try in Naples, where pizza was born, Romans have their own specialty: pizza bianca di Roma (white pizza from Rome). If you’re in a hurry, don’t hesitate to try a piece of pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice): it was the Romans who created the idea of rectangular pizza that they cut in little squares and then sell by the piece. Whereas in Naples pizza has only two different toppings (marinara and margherita), Romans got more creative with pizza al taglio, offering it with more toppings.Finally, whereas peasants couldn’t afford cakes or pies on a daily basis, there are some elaborate Roman desserts, usually deep fried doughnuts, that were prepared for holidays and special occasions: bignè di San Giuseppe, castagnole, marito[...]

Rome, capital of the world


April is the perfect month to write about Rome. According to legend, April 21 is when the imperial city was founded. Also, when you live outside Rome and especially if you live abroad, it is always at Easter when you have this special connection with Rome because of the activities the Pope performs. I’m talking about the broadcasting of the Via Crucis from the Colosseum, and then the Easter Mass and the multilingual Urbi et Orbi blessing (Urbi et Orbi means to the city – of Rome – and to the world).It is hard to write just a few lines about Rome, the city that was the capital of the Roman Empire and then became the capital of the largest spiritual empire in history. That’s why Rome is known as the eternal city and capital of the world. It’s astonishing how all the hectic contrasts in Rome build a perfect harmony that allows us to enjoy a fabulous experience, full of history and passion: Rome is baroque, classic, sacred, profane, pagan and Christian. When you have the pleasure of visiting the Roman Forum, the Palatine hill or the Colosseum, or when you’re walking down the Via Sacra or the Via Appia, you can close your eyes and you’ll have the feeling of experiencing the birth of western culture. According to legend, Rome has its origins with Romulus and Remus. However its historical roots are clear: the Etruscan, the Latin and the Greek worlds. In 753 B.C. Romulus, the mythical founder and first king of Rome, traced the boundaries of the new city around the seven Roman hills. The new city was chaotic from the beginning, with simple huts and narrow and dirty streets. However Romulus, who knew about conquest because he was the son of Mars – the god of war – and Rhea Silvia – a direct descendant of the Trojan fugitives –, together with his Latin fellows rapidly took possession of the Etruscan surroundings of Rome. The next step was obvious: conquering the known world. It was the Roman fate to command the nations: “tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento”. The city got bigger and, because of the limited space, houses with several storeys were built. The streets were still narrow and because of the high density of the population and the poor quality of building materials, the hazard of fire was a constant threat. In fact and as you might have known, fires destroyed Rome on several occasions – “Nero’s” fire being the most famous one.It was Augustus who, as emperor, received a Rome made of brick and left a Rome made of marble. He ordered and managed the renovation of the city. Rome could no longer have the appearance of a provincial city, and a new Rome had to be built to be a worthy capital of the new empire that had been forged. Rome was enriched with parks, temples, monumental public buildings and the Forum, the Roman version of the Greek agora, was consolidated as the center and meeting point of the city. The Forum was populated by merchants who offered the most varied of products. Later, new Fora were scattered around the city.Trade was so important for Romans that entire large buildings were dedicated to commercial activities. A clear example is Trajan’s Market, which can still be seen surrounding the Roman Forum. This building had several storeys, which housed more than 150 stores: a veritable shopping mall of ancient times.In the Palatine Hill magnificent palaces for the new emperors were built. These palaces were so grandiose that the w[...]