If life hands you lemons, make lemonade, and that’s just what Michael did this weekend. Cabs were on strike in Rome on Friday (strikes are so common here), so I had to take buses and the metro to our Italian class and home. That was way too much walking for me, and I was unable to move Friday and Saturday, so Michael made typical Roman dinners for me those two nights. The food was scrumptious and fairly simple to prepare, so you can make these recipes at home and taste a truly Roman feast.
On Friday night we had pappardelle with speck (Italian bacon), winter radicchio, and parmeggiano reggiano, and it’s one of the best dishes we’ve had in Rome—in restaurants or otherwise! Simply sensational!!! Speck is commonly used in Roman cooking, and although it tastes meatier than American bacon, you can probably substitute slab bacon and come close to the taste and texture. Michael found the recipe on Epicurious.com and adapted it as follows:
(1) Instead of using spaghetti, he used pappardelle—one of my favorite dried pastas. I’m sure your favorite pasta would be just fine.
(2) He used about a cup of dry white wine.
(3) We didn’t have a red chili pepper, so he substituted 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ot dried red pepper flakes.
Fortunately we had enough pasta left over to have it again Saturday night. On Saturday Michael went to the market at Campo dei Fiori and bought trimmed artichokes (carciofi). While he waited to make his purchase, he overheard the vendor describing how to make the iconic Carciofi Alla Romana, which is on almost every menu in Rome year round. The vendor gave Michael the recipe (in Italian), so here’s Claudio Zampa’s recipe for you to try (makes six medium artichokes):
(1) Allow two or three artichokes per person. If you don’t eat them all when they come off the stove, you can eat them cold within the next couple of days.
(2) If you can, buy the artichokes pretrimmed. If you don’t live in Rome, you probably can’t, so to trim them, look at the photo above (be sure to remove the choke–the purplish feathery leaves in the center) or follow the directions at http://purplefoodie.com/how-to-cut-an-artichoke/, which was filmed at Campo dei Fiori.
(3) Mix three tablespoons of chopped mint, one clove (or two) of minced garlic, and one tablespoon of chopped parsley with one tablespoon of olive oil and salt, and stuff the inside of each artichoke. Even if you’re tempted, do NOT skip the mint—it’s the key to this dish.
(4) Pour about an inch (Claudio says two fingers) of olive oil and a half inch (Claudio says one finger) of water into the bottom of a pan and heat until simmering. Add the artichokes, stem side up. You don’t need a huge pan—just one big enough so that all of the artichokes fit on the bottom but small enough so the artichokes don’t fall over while they’re cooking.
(5) Place a piece of parchment paper over the top of the pan and cover it with a lid. Claudio says to use the paper bag bread comes in, but that’s hard to do in the United States. Claudio also says that this step is the secret to success for this recipe, so don’t skip it.
(6) Poach the artichokes for 20 to 30 minutes until tender.
(7) Put the artichokes on a plate and drizzle them with the oil remaining in the bottom of the pan.
You won’t find better food anywhere in Rome! Give these a try!