Buongiorno! The mankind has achieved so much throughout the centuries – found the wheel, invented writing, posted pictures of funny cats on the Internet, but first of all – created Italian cuisine! 🙂 Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, Grana Padano, Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto Crudo, pizza, lasagna, spaghetti, tiramisu, and finally limoncello and grappa … Who doesn’t like Italian goodies? To get to know more about them, we decided to go shopping on the local market in Rome accompanied by experts – Walks of Italy!
CAMPO DE’ FIORI MARKET
One of the most popular Roman markets is located in Campo de’ Fiori Square. This place is also famous for another reason – in 1600 Giordano Bruno was burned here, as he dared to support the heresy of a Copernicus theory – Earth moving around the sun. Nowadays, here you have the chance to feel the atmosphere of the local Italian market place, from Monday to Saturday till 2 pm. In Campo de’ Fiori you will find everything you desire, directly from local producers.
I know that there are olive oil fanatics who drive from one olive-ry (?) to another, tasting olive oil straight from glasses, just like wine. Probably I am still far behind them, but I love olive oil and insanely top all my dishes with it, even soups. Unfortunately, typical supermarket olive oil, even this one labeled as theoretically most valuable “extra virgin”, has usually very poor quality, and no taste or aroma of olives at all. It is not surprising – did you know that olive oil is one of the most counterfeited food products? Half of the world’s consumers buy fakes! Manufacturers usually either mix inferior quality Italian oils or just pour into bottles cheaper Tunisian oil, then put an Italian sticker on it… and cheap bottle of “extra virgin” is ready. But the taste of real olive oil is so unique – try this one from small, local manufacturer and you will never buy a supermarket one again!
AND BALSAMIC VINEGAR – WHAT A PERFECT COUPLE!
Nothing goes better with olive oil than balsamic vinegar! I must admit that I’ve never been a fan of it until I tried it in Rome. We tasted vinegar like wine – not surprising as both these things are made of grapes ;-) To prepare one liter of vinegar you need 145 kilos of them! Traditional balsamic vinegar comes only from the area of Modena and Reggio Emilia and is on its label, there is an inscription Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale. It is extremely dense, almost black (but may also be completely transparent!) and… sweet. If you (like me!) turned supermarket vinegar down due to its bitter-sour-spicy taste, you may be surprised. In this ‘real’ one sweetness of grape prevails, and the taste is deep thanks to aging in barrels for at least 12 years. A few drops of vinegar over a piece of Parmesan cheese and the perfect wine appetizer is ready 🙂 The Italians use it also as an ice cream topping!
LIMONCELLO! TI AMO!
I drank limoncello for the very first time in Capri island, long long time ago. Cold shot refreshed me perfectly in the August heat. The best one is produced from special species of lemons. They grow only in the area of Sorrento on the Amalfi coast. Extract is made from the lemon zest. You need to peel very carefully, avoiding the white parts, which may result in very bitter taste. If you like sweet drinks, you must try limoncello with milk – crema di limoncello (sweeter but has less alcohol than traditional one – a trade-off!). The Italians went a step further and to pamper tourists they prepared also strawberry, white chocolate or melon flavored liqueurs. However, they are still faithful to the classic limoncello – it is the second most popular booze in the country, after Campari.
ITALIAN CHEESE PLATE
Who doesn’t know mozzarella? Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, the noblest variety of mozzarella, is produced from fresh water buffaloes milk, only in Campania. This cheese owes its name to the method of production – the mass is kneaded until gets smooth structure, from which a single ball is formed by hand (mozza, mozzare means “tear”, “cut off”). I would recommend you to try also the smoked version (affumicata) – tastes like a sheep cheese!
Sometimes you come across something that looks like a ball of mozzarella. When you cut it, it completely falls apart and buttery filling comes out. This is buratta. My beloved Italian cheese! It goes perfectly with freshly ground black pepper. It should be served at room temperature to bring out its full flavor.
And what about the king and queen of cheese? Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan) and Grana Padano have been competing to be the “one and only” for over 800 years. Sometimes it becomes a little bizarre. Last year, Grana Padano manufacturers sued the producers of “The Bold and the Beautiful” TV series. Why? One character had a line “Oh no, I bought Grana Padano instead of Parmigiano Reggiano” 🙂 So what’s the difference between these seemingly similar products? In fact, everything – including what cows eat, milk fat content (Grana Padano is produced with skimmer one), aging (parmesan – 12 months, Grana – 9 months) as well as preservatives (Parmesan isn’t allowed to have any, Grana may contain lysozyme). Which one is better? Parmigiano is more robust, you can see its structure, Grana is softer and mellow. Just try them!
PIZZA! MAMMA MIA!
I must admit that the highlight of this tour for us was a lesson how to bake a perfect pizza. We rolled up our sleeves and went to work! It wasn’t easy as might have seen… kneading the perfect dough is a state of art! 🙂 But once you do it, other steps are not that complex.
Our pizza exceeded our expectations! If you want to know the secrets of making the perfect Italian pizza, click here!
P.S. If a cappuccino in cafe costs more than 1.5 euro – beware, but you have just hit a tourist trap!