It’s been over a month since I last did a post about my journey to cook my way around the world with a surprisingly delicious saltfish dish from St Lucia. Since then I’ve been to Greece and to Taiwan… all the while trying to think of what country should be covered for this landmark number. So, here we are with Italy.
Right, so where do you even begin with what to cook for Italy. There are so many iconic and regional dishes to choose from that it was actually rather difficult to pick a main and a dessert. I mean not only is this the land of pizza, pasta and gelato – but risottos, bread, soups, stews, salumi and many other things. Hell, if you go to the north of the country, you find a lot of Italian dishes that most of us would be more likely to identify as Austrian or Swiss.
There is also the issue of appropriation with certain dishes due to the popularity of Italian cuisine. So many of us make something we identify as ‘spaghetti bolognese’ and it’s just not Italian food. In this vein, I found recipes that are as authentic as possible and thought it would be cool to make one thing I know how to make and one thing I haven’t.
For a very long time, spaghetti carbonara would have probably ranked as my favourite dish. This was back when I was young, refused to eat vegetables and seemed to eat at a lot of Italian restaurants. However, this wasn’t proper carbonara – it was carbonara featuring a lot of cream and, sometimes, peas. It wasn’t until I covered guanciale nearly four and a half years ago that I made carbonara that could be described as authentic (although, to be fair, I have been making nearly-proper carbonara for about five years prior).
So, what makes carbonara authentic? Firstly, no cream whatsoever. Now that I’ve been making it with egg yolk, butter and cheese instead – the idea of using cream just feels wrong. Guanciale (or pork cheek) instead of pancetta as the meat and pecorino or parmesan as the cheese.
Now that I make this type of carbonara, this is my favourite pasta dish and would probably rank as one of my top ten dishes out there. This recipe by Antonio Carluccio was used for today’s recipe – and is pretty much the version I’ve made for ages, including the first meal that I ever cooked for my husband.
Like with Venezuela, I could hardly pass up this opportunity to unite the two food lists. There were a few options of things to make from Italy, but I thought I would go for this crunchy and crumbly tart from Lombardy because it looked relatively simple to make. This is true as long as you don’t forget that your flan ban has a loose bottom which can send the mixture flying on its way to the oven. Oh well, at least I had enough left to cook – even if my fan oven was a bit overly zealous with cooking the top layer…
As the recipe from Mano’s Menu shows, the ingredients required for this dish are fairly humble and can be found in most store cupboards. It’s also one of those rare dishes that doesn’t take that long to put together and tastes like a lot more effort went into it than what actually did. Unless you do a crumbly juggling act like I did.
Sbrisolona is listed as a cake, although it feels more like the offspring of an overgrown cookie and the base of a cheesecake. It’s really satisfying to break off pieces (as it pretty much starts to shatter when you use a knife to cut it) and there is just so much of it that I can see this being dessert for the next 2-3 days. I wonder what it’ll taste like with some vanilla skyr yoghurt.
So that’s the first 25 countries crossed off and 168 still to go. There are still so many huge cuisines yet to touch and a lot of new things to try and make for myself (injera anyone?). Next time I’ll be back trying to make something from Africa, although I cannot help but think that Mozambique will be a tough act to follow.