We’ve had many great meals that I would like to share with you. Some of them have even been at home. We’ve been cooking a lot as we start our winter hibernation. Hope you enjoy!
Dinner at Michelangelo and Rossella’s
This is always a treat, but this time was extra special for me. Rossella makes a baked polenta dish that I just love. It’s polenta, sausage, porcini mushrooms, and speck. And cheese. It’s wonderful and the perfect meal for a cold fall evening. I’ve got to try to make this. It’s one of my favorites.
Pizza and More
We met Stefano and his girlfriend Ludovica for a drink recently. After a couple of drinks we decided to grab a pizza. We went to Scucco’s, a little pizza place here. Scucco’s recently moved into the galleria. There’s always been a restaurant in the galleria, but it’s one of those locations that’s a little cursed. Nothing ever does really well there. Scucco’s is a well-known place so maybe they’ll make a go of it. We’ve tried to go a few times, but they’re usually closed. It’s one of those places that doesn’t post its hours and you never know when it might be open. Once we went and they were open, but they out of pizza dough. Yes, that’s right, a pizzeria that ran out of dough. I guess you know it’s freshly made when they run out. It’s not something you can just whip another batch of on the fly. So, we were excited to finally get to try the new location. We gave it an A. Stefano and I got calzones and I almost lost it when this gargantuan thing was placed before me. It was wonderful, but no way I could eat the whole thing. Stefano’s plate was clean, however.
Dinner at Home
My stuff doesn’t hold a candle to the restaurants or Rossella’s, but we can’t eat out all the time. I try to cook healthy most of the time, but sometimes I feel like we need to be rewarded with a big plate of pasta or something uniquely Italian. I bought some guanciale (pork jowl) at the Centogusti with the idea that I would try to make Pasta alla Gricia – one of my favorite pasta dishes. It’s one of those things that has only a few ingredients, but is all about proportions, timing, and skill. When dishes only have a few ingredients, it’s easy to mess them up because there’s nothing to hide behind. It has to be perfect. This was not perfect, but was pretty darn good for a Southern girl. The ingredients are olive oil, guanciale, pasta, pasta water, pepper, and pecorino romana cheese. The pasta water combines with the oil and cheese to make a creamy sauce that’s wonderfully rich without being too much. It sauce coats the pasta so that it glistens.
My other recent meal was a butternut squash risotto with porcini mushrooms. This is another great cool weather dish that warms your soul. I used carnaroli rice and some dried porcinis that I got at the Centogusti. I mashed the squash and added it to the risotto to give it a beautiful pale orange hue. Sauteed the mushrooms with some garlic, wine and the soaking liquid to make a little sauce. Again, not perfection, but not bad for someone trying to learn the nuances of this cuisine.
I’m not sure there’s anything better than Sunday lunch Italian style. We joined Michelangelo, Rossella, her sister Mariella and her husband Mario for lunch at an agriturismo near Sanselpolcro called Il Castiglione. It’s up in the Apennines above Sanselpolcro with killer views. Sunday lunch is a grand affair, with generations of families all gathering around a table having a long, leisurely, and very big lunch. This place is only open to the public on Saturday and Sunday and offers a price fixed menu. Antipasto, choice of primi (pasta), choice of secondo (meat), choice of side dish, and unlimited wine for 25 euro. Yes, that’s right, 25 euro. I love this country. It was really, really good with handmade pasta, excellent meats all prepared to perfection, and wine flowing from straw wrapped bottles. We had ravioli with meat sauce, tagliatelle with sausage and fresh porcinis, roasted pork with black truffles, braised rabbit, sliced beef, artichoke tortino (like a gratin), fried potatoes (it is Tuscany, after all). And the fabulous antipasto tray with meats, cheese, and kiwi – a new one on me. I learned that you don’t put cheese on a dish with mushrooms because the cheese overwhelms the taste of the mushrooms. I didn’t bring up the whole pizza thing. It’s like everything else in Italy – a rule that’s made for breaking.
La Torre di Gnicche
We went to the Arezzo antique market this past weekend (they have it once a month) and had a wonderful time strolling around the beautiful city of Arezzo and looking at all the offerings.
In fact, we strolled and looked so much that we worked up quite an appetite. There’s a little Slow Foods place right off the Piazza Grande that we just love. La Torre di Gnicche. We had great lunch of minestra di farro (farro soup), zuppa di cipolle infornata (onion soup – or so I thought), polpettone al vino rosso (roughly – meatloaf), and a cheese tray. I think I have good language skills when it comes to food, but I’m always amazed at how little I know. The zuppa di cipolle infornata, which literally translated means baked onion soup, was not soup at all. It was some kind of delicious onion, cheese, bread, and herbs baked concoction. And the polpettone al vino rosso which I thought were meatballs (polpette means meatball, so I just assumed. . .) was actually an interesting kind of meatloaf. Nuances. But it was all fantastic and we had a glass of local wine to go with everything. Mighty fine day.
I never get tired of exploring the food here. Even though we have the same dishes, they’re slightly different at different places. We’re starting to learn this and have developed our favorites. Maybe we’re picking up on the nuances after all.