Although there are a million and one ways to drink coffee in Italy, I’m always surprised and delighted to discover a new one. Especially one like caffè alla salentina, perfectly suited to the summer weather which has finally arrived.
Still or sparkling?
I don’t know about you, but on a really hot day, nothing but freezing cold sparkling water will cut it. There’s something about having the bubbles erupt violently in your mouth that really quenches thirst. It’s as good as a cold beer—better perhaps—but without the alcohol.
This time of year in Italy can be hot and I mean really hot. In Venice, temperatures and humidity soar making you want to leave the city and run away to the countryside. From a food point of view your body demands fresh, lean flavours to cool it to the core. Luckily, nature comes to the rescue by providing us with a large variety of summer fruit and vegetables of which a personal favourite is melon. At this time of year, Venetian shops are piled high with melons in all varieties and colours and this recipe works equally well with any of them.
The more I learn about southern Italian cuisine the bigger the differences I see between that and northern cuisine. And, to be honest, nothing surprises me. I was recently taught this recipe by a good friend of mine from Naples and it’s already become one of my go-to favourites. As the name suggests―maccheroni in Italian is used to refer to pasta in general rather than a specific kind―this can me made with any type of pasta. In fact, it’s often used as a way of using up leftovers. I already knew that you could make delicious arancini with leftover risotto to avoid re-heating (and therefore overcooking and ruining) the rice. But this recipe is the same with pasta. Alternatively, as with this recipe, you can cook the pasta specially and just enjoy eating the dish for its own sake.
In Italy, even the flavours of gelato are custom to the whims of fashion. There are a couple of flavours, very common when I was a child in the 1980s, which you very rarely find nowadays, but which for me say still say Italian summer.
Until the 1960s, Carpaccio was a Venetian painter whose renaissance canvases are valued as a record of what the city looked like during his lifetime. Today, historians pore over his works extracting knowledge of the minutiae of sixteenth-century Venetian dress and architecture contained in them, including a detailed rendition of the old wooden Rialto bridge. But in 1963, Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of the now almost mythical Harry’s Bar, invented a dish subtle slices of raw meat and named it for the painter—there was an exhibition of his work in the city at the time—and for future generations the name became associated more with culinary than with visual arts.