A Little Bit of Italy – Rome and Naples
As I make my travels across Italy I will always find time to
sample the local delicacies. I believe that to taste the
food of an area is to go some way to understanding its
culture. In two previous articles (published in issues 18 and 19 of Munaty Cooking Magazine) I have shared risotto from Venice, squid from Pisa and veal from Milan. Now it is the turn of Rome and Naples to tantilise the tastebids.
Rome’s early history is probably better known than its
later history, but this city does not hide one period of time to the detriment of another. Ancient Rome rubs shoulders with twentieth century Rome. The Colosseum and Forum sit in the middle of Rome’s traffic, but there are quieter corners and it is not all expensive tourist traps – you just have to look for them. Rome’s food has been influenced by the many immigrants that have made it home. I stayed near the Campo Fiori, a food and flower market that evokes a Rome of earlier times, and just steps away from my hotel was an authentic trattoria.
A trattoria is less formal than a restaurant. In general there are no printed menus, wine is served in the decanter and the food is modest but very generous in quantity. I didn’t know that when I entered this particular trattoria and was confused as food just made its way to my table. Confusion turned to pleasure as I filled myself to bursting point on fresh, local food. One of the dishes was fennel. This is a slightly different version of the dish I was served, but just as good.
- 750g of fennel bulbs
- 125g breadcrumbs
- 110g unsalted butter
- 120 ml béchamel sauce
- 100g grated Parmagiano cheese
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C
- Trim the fennel bulbs, removing the fronds and outer leaves, and cut into thin wedges.
- Boil fennel until tender.
- Drain fennel and sauté in half the butter until it is lightly browned.
- Place fennel into a buttered oven dish and pour over the béchamel sauce, sprinkle with the cheese.
- Finally sprinkle breadcrumbs over the dish and dot with the remaining butter.
- Cook in oven for 15 minutes until lightly browned.
- Serve as an accompaniment to a main dish. Also perfect for a comforting supper.
Naples is in the warm south of Italy and home of the pizza; but there is more to its palette than just that. Naples is one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities, dating back to the ninth century BCE. As a microcosm of Europe’s history, its food has been influenced by the different civilizations that have been and gone.
- Combine the flour, salt, sugar, eggs, lemon syrup, lemon zest and butter to make a dough-
- Knead the dough until smooth, shape into a round, cover and put aside for a minimum of 20 minutes but an hour or two if you have time.
- Split the dough into six pieces and roll each one into a long rope.
- Cut each rope into pieces about ¼ inch long and roll into little balls.
- Fry the balls until they are light golden brown in colour – shallow or deep fry it is your choice.
- Drain the balls of fat on kitchen paper.
- Melt the honey in a pan. Take off the heat and add the balls, stirring them in so each is coated in honey. Mix in some of the decorations at this point so they coat the balls.
- Pile the balls into a pyramid and add more edible decorations. At this point you can let your extravagant side go wild!