Although we will be living in Rome for two more years, we are already sad about leaving Italy’s amazing fresh food, from artichokes to zucchini. Fabulous fresh vegetables of so many kinds; delicious fresh fruits; scrumptious fresh meat, chicken, and fish; buffala mozzarella and other Italian cheeses—a foodie’s dream come true, and just a few blocks from our apartment! Italy is a small country, so it never takes more than a couple of hours for just-picked items to reach our local markets, unlike in the US, where most food must be trucked from where it is grown to where it is consumed. In Rome we are especially lucky because the Pontine Marshes, which hold vast tracts of farmland, are less than an hour away.
We went to the market at Campo de’ Fiori Saturday to buy porcini mushrooms to make funghi trifolati. Just as we finished our purchase, the stall owner reached under the counter and pulled out a small paper bag. With a rapturous smile, he waved it under our noses. That’s how we learned that Saturday was the first day of white truffle season. Truffles always smell divine, so how could we resist? White truffles are costly everywhere, especially outside Italy, but we decided that one small white truffle was worth the splurge. White truffles are truly ugly little buggers, but we love them atop pasta and, of all things, fried eggs.
Although fig season is nearly over, we found Black Mission figs and snapped them up to sauté and wrap in prosciutto, which we bought thinly sliced at the nearby norceria, a butcher shop specializing in pork products. Sautéed fresh figs melt in your mouth, and even though I’ll probably never like Fig Newtons, I love fresh figs.
San Marzano tomatoes, our favorite, are also at the end of their season, and we won’t be able to buy them fresh again until late spring or early summer. I bought several to make friselle, which we had never tried and which we enjoyed.
Here’s what we did with our loot.
Tagliatelle with White Truffles
Michael made our tagliatelle, saying that white truffles deserve homemade pasta. He washed the white truffle with a soft brush. He then cooked the tagliatelle for a couple of minutes; drained them; and tossed them with about a half cup of butter and salt and pepper. To finish the dish he shaved most of the white truffle on top of each serving and then added grated parmesan cheese. YUM!
Fresh Black Mission Figs with Prosciutto
You can use this recipe for any fresh figs.
Cut the figs in half.
Sauté the figs, cut side down, in butter until soft.
Wrap with thinly sliced prosciutto.
Drizzle with balsamic glaze.
Serve with a fork and a very sharp knife (perhaps a steak knife).
Groan with joy!
We had never heard of friselle until a couple of months ago, when we saw them on the menu board at a restaurant in Trastevere. We had already ordered, so we couldn’t try them then. We began looking for the rock hard, dry rounds of bread in our local supermarkets. We finally found friselle gigante (big friselle) and grabbed a package. I followed a chopped-tomato recipe that I found on the Internet, although I soaked the friselle very briefly because the big ones were beginning to fall apart. (A piece fell off when I moved them to drain them, so I tried it—delicious!) We should have shared the large friselle (and will in the future) because they doubled in size after I soaked them and we couldn’t finish them. We paired them with small balls of mozzarella (bocconcini) and a dry Italian rosé wine.
If you can find friselle in a restaurant or grocery store, give them a try. Don’t be afraid to try different ingredients—just make sure whatever you put on top is quite juicy. We plan to add red onions and balsamic vinegar the next time we make the tomato mixture.