The Magic of Rome
5 More Yummy Things I Learned in Italy
–Francine Segan, Betty Food+Home Editor
Rome is magical. It’s a modern city, but with wonderful hints everywhere of its 2,000 years. If you can’t get there, rent a copy of any of the great films shot in Rome, like Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn or La Dolce Vita starring the sexy Marcello Mastroianni for a virtual visit, and indulge in some of the city’s fabulous specialties in your own home.
1. Honey. Honey is delicious served with cheese like parmesan and ricotta. Honey is also wonderful to cook with, especially in cakes as it adds moisture and a rich, lush taste.
Just 30 minutes outside the center of Rome is one of the city’s most renowned beekeepers, Rita Franceschini, who welcomes visitors to her Azienda Agricola Colline di Veio for honey making tours and honey tastings. Rita’s specialty is wildflower honey, which is amazing in cake. You have to try her no-bake chocolate honey cake; it’s like eating fine truffles. Mmmm, now I know why the ancient Etruscans and Romans called honey “food of the gods.”
Rita’s Roman No-Bake Chocolate Honey Cake
1 cup heavy cream
12 ounces dark chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons honey
Bring the cream to boil in small saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth. Add cocoa powder, butter and honey and stir until melted and smooth. Pour chocolate mixture into a well-buttered spring form tart pan. Chill at least 1 hour. Cut into wedges and serve.
2. Drinking Etruscan-Style. Rome is filled with art and ruins from ancient Roman and Etruscan times. One of my favorite finds in Rome was the National Etruscan Museum in Villa Giulia. It’s bursting with fabulous ancient Etruscan art and artifacts like these fun drinking vessels. The dog-shaped wine cup is adorable, but what really tickled me was the wine jug. It shows an older man offering a rabbit to a younger guy, which in Etruscan means, “want to have sex?” Ah, those wine-loving Etruscans really knew how to party.
3. Speaking of drinking. Just 30 minutes outside of the center of Rome is vineyard, Gelso della Valchetta, makers of award-winning wines. The vineyard welcomes visitors. When I visited, the gracious owner, Mapi Caldari, hosted me to lunch, in her lovely home. I fell in love not only with the wines, but with her kitchen, which she tiled in a mix and match of tiles from antique shops and flea market finds.
4. Fish. One of the Rome’s most renowned restaurants, La Rosetta specializes in fish, which chef owner Massimo Riccioli prepares with an expert touch. This dish looks fancy, but it actually very easy to make. To make the pretty veggie under the fish, just steam slices of zucchini that you cut lengthwise with a vegetable peeler.
The red snapper fillet is so easy you don’t even need a written recipe. Just warm a little extra virgin olive oil in a skillet and cook a few garlic cloves until golden. Remove the garlic, and add a little white wine, lemon juice, finely minced celery. Bring to a low boil and then add the red snapper or any fish fillet. Cook until done then season with salt and pepper. Serve over the steamed zucchini slices and top with a sprinkle of minced parsley and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Buon appetito!