A Feast Fit for a Caesar…

We’ve been holding some very special Roman themed dinners at Caldesi in Campagna and Caffe Caldesi to coincide with the launch of our latest book ‘Rome – Centuries in an Italian Kitchen’. Our menu for the evenings was designed to showcase some of the dishes that we discovered in our many months of research and to take our guests on a culinary journey through Rome.
The evenings kicked off with the serving of a cheeky little cocktail we’d named the ‘Wonky Madonna’ after a portrait of the Madonna which hangs askew behind a bar at the Trastevere in Rome (see below for the recipe) and to go with this we served a selection of antipasti. First Suppli al telefono – named because the melting mozzarella inside these crispy rice fritters resembles the wires between telegraph poles as you break them in half to enjoy them.
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Next up was Lagana, a Roman flat bread that dates back to the days of Julius Caesar. It is eaten with ricotta and a relish made from sardines, celery, basil, parsley, honey and black pepper.
lagne and fish pickle
Next was a Carpaccio di Manzo – lemon and vinegar marinated raw thinly sliced beef fillet and then onto Gnocchi alla Romana.
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Making the Gnocchi all Romana – You need a strong chef such as Marco to make sure there are no lumps.

These are a very traditional Roman gnocchi made with semolina, milk, cheese and lots of butter.

The finished dish.

Our secondo included a choice of the famous Ossobuco all Romana – even though the Milanese claim that Ossobuco is their dish the Roman’s passionately claim it is theirs.
Osso Buco
There was also a choice of Guinea Fowl alla Cacciatora cooked with rosemary and vinegar in the ‘style of the hunter’ and Orata in Crosta d’erbe – sea bream in a herbed crust.
Such was the fun and enjoyment of the evening (and perhaps the free flowing Roman wines helped) I forgot to take pictures of the rest of the meal but we finished off with a Torta Bianca – a cheesecake that dates as far back as the middle ages when ‘white food’ was seen a decadent and contained expensive spices, in this case ginger. The evening was completed with the traditional espresso and much satisfied groaning as we pulled ourselves up from our chairs to wish our guests a pleasant journey home. Our night of Roman excess was an all round success.

The Wonky Madonna

Just right for a Christmas party cup it contains all those warming spices you associate with the festive season, this is a sweet, innocent-tasting drink with a hidden kick of chilli and alcohol. To make a non-alcoholic version, remove the Grand Marnier from the recipe, add a little sugar for sweetness and top up with tonic or soda water instead of prosecco. The spiced orange juice needs to be made the day before you want to serve the cocktail, to allow the flavours to infuse. If you buy the juice make sure it is only juice and doesn’t contain any other flavours or additives.
Makes 8–10 cocktails
For the spiced orange juice
300 ml (10 fl oz) freshly squeezed blood orange juice (either from fruits or a chilled carton)
200 ml (7 fl oz) water
3 ´ 8 cm (3 in) strips of orange zest (use a potato peeler to peel off the strips)
5 tablespoons Grand Marnier, Cointreau or brandy
1 small dried red chilli or 1/2 fresh chilli
1 ´ 5 cm (2 in) cinnamon stick
1 star anise
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
To serve
1 bottle prosecco
Slices of orange to serve (optional)
Star anise to serve (optional)
Small cinnamon sticks to serve (optional)
To make the spiced orange juice, put all of the ingredients into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook for a couple of minutes and crush the spices gently with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and chill in the fridge overnight (or at least a few hours) to infuse the flavours.
Pour the syrup through a sieve into a jug and chill. When you are ready to serve, pour 50 ml (2 fl oz) of the Spiced Orange Juice into each champagne glass over a couple of ice cubes and top with prosecco. Decorate the glass with orange slices, star anise and cinnamon sticks if you like.
You can buy signed copies of our latest book ‘Rome – Centuries in an Italian Kitchen’ here.

Seabass Saltimbocca

This is one of our friend Stefania’s ‘supper in three ingredients’ recipes. She likes to have everything ready
around her, including a side dish of potatoes or Green Beans with Lemon, as it is a quick dish to cook.
Sea Bass with Parma Ham and Sage Leaves
Saltimbocca di Spigola
SeabassSaltimbocca web version
Serves 4
8 small skin-on sea bass
or sea bream fillets
(approx. 180 g/6 oz each)
salt and freshly ground
black pepper
4 slices prosciutto
8 large sage leaves
plain (all-purpose) or
‘00’ flour for dusting
2 tablespoons olive oil
50 ml (2 fl oz) white wine
30 g (1 oz) salted butter
METHOD: Season both sides of the fish. Cut the prosciutto in
half widthways so you have 8 slices. Lay a slice of prosciutto and
a sage leaf on top of the skinless side of the fish and fix them
into place with a toothpick. Repeat this for each fillet. Put some
flour into a bowl and dust each piece of fish in flour; shake off the
excess and put them on a plate.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Fry the fish prosciuttoside
down for 2 minutes and then turn over when just browned.
Fry skin-side down for another 2–3 minutes or until the fish is
cooked through. Add the wine and allow to evaporate. Stir in the
butter to thicken the sauce. Remove from the heat and serve the
fish straight away drizzled with the sauce.
For more recipes from ‘Rome – Centuries in an Italian Kitchen’ buy signed copies of the book here.

All Roads Back Lead to Rome…

We have just returned from a research trip for our next book on regional Italian food which is due out next year and covers the food of the island of Sicily. On our way to the Island we flew via Rome and spent a day doing something that both Giancarlo and I find the one of the most rewarding part of writing our books. We visited some of the wonderful people who helped in our research for ‘Rome – Centuries in an Italian Kitchen‘ and delivered them signed copies ‘hot off the press’.
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Stefania Menichetti is a busy mum and family friend who cooks dishes with three ingredients for speed after a working day. When we asked Stefania how she would describe Roman food, she told us, ‘Roman cooking is a kitchen of rich flavours and poor ingredients. It is generous and light cuisine – because doesn’t miss anything’.
Wendy Holloway is originally from Pittsburgh but has lived in Rome for over 30 years and tuns the culinary experience company ‘Flavours of Italy’. Wendy told us that it has always been easy to get fresh ingredients in Rome, both in terms of what is grown locally but what also what is imported – it’s easy to eat seasonally in the city.
Paolo at Campagna
Paolo Trancassini is the owner of La Campana, who, when we vitiated the restaurant gave us a book about the origin of the restaurant, which is one of the oldest in Rome and has been standing here since 1518 – it even gave its name to the street it’s on, Vitolo della Campana.
Anna Pierluigi
Anna Davies is a home cook who has lived in Rome for over 30 years. Once a member of the Royal Ballet she met and married an Italian and also fell in love with the Roman food culture. Her favourite ingredient is Rosemary which she uses for everything from roast potatoes, white pizza, beans and chickpeas.
It was so lovely to meet with our friends and thank them for their help in giving us hints, recipes and pointing us in direction while we delved into the depths of what makes Roman cuisine what it is today.
For signed copies you can click here or if you’d like to join us on one of our special cookery courses cooking recipes from the book then click here.

When In Rome…

During our research trips for our new book ‘Rome-Centuries in an Italian Kitchen’ we stumbled across some great bars, restaurants and food shops that are not part of the normal ‘tourist trail’. There’s a full list in the book but here’s a few of our favourites:-
Trattoria De Teo
Situated in the Piazza dei Ponziani, this fabulous little trattoria is run by Teodore Filippine and his wife Tiziana. It’s always full of local diners which is always a good sign. Try the arrabbiata pasta and the polpettine de bolito. Say ‘hi’ to Teo for us.
La Taverna del Ghetto
Specialising in traditional Jewish Romanesque food this traditional tavern is situated on Via Del Portico d’ottavio. Try the wilted tomatoes, the chef’s bean dip and bread. The courgette flowers stuffed with sea bass and their Carbonara Jewish style are also worthy on note.
Dress up and enjoy spotting the celebs while you sit outside, drink bollicine (bubbles) and eat the freshest seafood or try their home marinated thinly sliced beef and delicious pasta. It’s situated in the Piazza dé Ricci a short walk from the banks of the Tiber.
Pizza da Forno Campo dei Fiori
Quite simply we think this is the best pizza in Rome, which is strange given it’s location in the centre of the tourist haven of Campo De’ Fiori. Press your nose up to the window and watch them making them before going inside and ordering a slice or two of pizza perfection.

Supplizio, Rome

Visit during the day for Dandini’s amazing suppli and a cold beer. They won’t bettered. You’ll find them in Via Dei Banchi Vecchi.
Volpetti and Volpetti Piu, Testaccio
A shop selling a huge variety of artisan cheeses, salumi and pastries. Down the road in Via Marmorata you’ll it’s cafe serving tavola calda dishes and wonderful pizza.
We also found the Buzz in Rome website very handy for suggesting places to eat and local events of interest.
For a full list of our favourite places, Roman food blogs, recipes and a lot more then buy ‘Rome – Centuries in an Italian Kitchen’ here.