Pasta with chicken? Mamma mia!
If you’re a fan of pages such as Italians Mad at Food, or if you google the ‘rules’ of Italian cooking, you will know that there’s only one thing worse than putting pineapple on pizza: eating pasta with chicken. That’s right. Any of you who have been cooking and eating pasta with chicken are risking the wrath of the people who brought you spaghetti and lasagne. You’d better stop it now.
Castello di Santa Severa
The castle of Santa Severa, a few miles up the coast from Rome, looks like an enormous sandcastle left behind by a giant child for the sea to wash away. Its form is every child’s idea of what a castle should be. Huge round towers rise solidly from the beach and at high tide the water laps around their bases.
Autumn in central Italy is sagra season. These are local food festivals and with so many typical products coming into season in September and October—grapes, mushrooms, olives, and truffles to name but a few—there’s a choice of sagra to attend every weekend. The two last weekends of October are the time of for the small Tuscan village of Caprese to have its chestnut sagra: the Festa del Marrone di Caprese.
Let’s start with a proverb
As a Venetian proverb puts it, ‘chi ga santoli, ga bussolai‘ (if you’ve got godparents, you’ve got bussolai). Judging by this, they are something worth having, and indeed they are. Bussolai are delicious butter cookies from the Venetian island of Burano which achieve their golden yellow colour through the use of egg yolks. They are definitely one to add to my list of 10 of the best Italian pastries.
A Roman friend’s recommendation
I was talking about the ghetto to a Roman friend, born and bred, and he said, ‘You must try crostata ricotta e visciole. They only make it in one bakery in the ghetto. It’s incredible.’ A little later, I asked him to show me where this bakery was. It’s on the corner of Via del Portico d’Ottavia and has no sign. It’s official name is Boccione.
And so, one Sunday morning—the ghetto being the Jewish quarter of Rome things are closed on Saturdays but open on Sundays—I paid a visit to Boccione and tried my first slice of the best cheesecake I’ve ever tasted.