Sunday, October 23, 2011

Eating 'alla Romana' {Carciofi, Fettuccine, & Saltimbocca}

As promised, the second stop of the mother-n-daughter holiday has arrived: Rome. After eating our way through the Naschmarkt in Vienna, we headed south to check out what Italy had on offer.

A total of three days were spent in Rome (pictures are here). That's just enough time to take in the major sights and get a feel for the pulse of the city, which author Fred Plotkin describes as an "erotic charge in the air...It could almost be called a romantic imperative." And after those three days (or more specifically, the nights) I can confirm that he just may have it pegged correctly.

My mum's guidebook promised us the best artichokes are to be found in Rome. Wading through one tourist restaurant menu after another, we sampled many dishes. One place (I wish I'd jotted down their name) had the artichokes we were after. Fresh Italian carciofi with hints of lemon, garlic, mint, and parsley, are gently simmered in white wine and served with soft bread for sopping up the juices.

To recreate these Carciofi alla Romana at home, the herbs are easily procured, but the artichokes are not. In the recipe given below, canned artichoke hearts are used, which in no way compare, but do prove to be a quick an easy starter for any meal...and are just nice enough to serve to guests as well.

Towards the end of our stay, my mum and I ended up in a bookstore (or two...hardly surprising to anyone who knows us.) I picked up a great foodie find: Italy for the Gourmet Traveller by Fred Plotkin. Published just last year, this guide covers nearly every aspect of food in each Italian region. Not only are traditional dishes of each region described, but it also lists practical places - food shops, food bookstores, food festivals, and on and on. A recipe or two is given for each region, but I find the real value to be in the stories behind the dishes the author recounts from his experience (he gives are pretty good version of the Est! Est! Est! wine name origin.)

One of the dishes listed in my new foodie book, although not one we sampled, sounded pretty good to me this week. Fettuccine alla Romana: pasta with prosciutto, tomatoes, Marsala, and porcini mushrooms. It's traditionally made with chicken giblets (detest!), which I simply omitted and didn't find the resulting dish lacking in flavour whatsoever.

I've been eating a lot of quick dinners of pan-fried chicken breast topped with prosciutto lately, so when I came across Saltimbocca alla Romana for the first time it instantly appealed. Pork cutlets topped with sage and prosciutto. Simple, yet succulent. Even those with a stated aversion towards pork (and I know there are many of you) will find this style of preparing it to be pleasing, what with the added juiciness given by the prosciutto. And any excuse to enjoy fresh sage in the autumn is welcome by me!

These dishes were easily made together for a Sunday lunch in just over an hour. The flavours really balance well together, as all are 'alla Romana'.

Buon apetito!

Continue to Recipe...
Roman Dinner
Serves 2
Time 1 1/4 hour

1) Soak porcini mushrooms
2) Get the artichokes simmering
3) Start water for pasta
4) Make pasta sauce and set to simmer (add porcinis as soon as soft)
5) Prepare pork cutlets with prosciutto
6) Toss pasta in the water
7) Fry up the pork

Recipe: Roman Artichokes {Carciofi alla Romana}
Adapted from Sassy Radish

1 Tb chopped parsley
1 1/2 Tb chopped fresh mint
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 cup olive oil
1 can artichoke hearts
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/8 cup boiling water

lemon wedges

Mix the parsley, mint, garlic, lemon zest, salt, and olive oil in small saucepan. Add the artichoke hearts and coat well. Heat on med-low until the oil is warmed, then add in the wine and water. Simmer on low for 30-45 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges and fresh bread.

Recipe: Roman Pasta {Fettuccine alla Romana}
Adapted from Accidental Hedonist

a large handful (15g/.5oz) dried porcini mushrooms
a knob of butter and 1 Tb olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 slices (50g/2oz) prosciutto, cubed
1/3 cup Marsala
1 can chopped tomatoes
pinch salt/freshly ground pepper
3 Tb fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 lb (250g) fettuccine pasta (fresh if possible, or best quality dried)
freshly grated Parmesan

Soak the mushrooms in just enough cold water to cover them in advance (needs 45 minutes). It helps to place a bowl on top of the water surface, to keep them submerged.

 Start a big pot of pasta water boiling.

In a high-sided skillet on low heat, cook the onions in the butter/olive oil. When soft, add the garlic for a minute. Add the prosciutto for another few seconds. Turn up heat to medium, pour in the Marsala and cook down until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes, salt/pepper. Chop up the porcinis and add to the sauce, along with their soaking liquid. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add in the parsley the last few minutes. Ten minutes before it's finished, toss the pasta in its pot. Cook al dente.

Drain fettuccine, put it back into its pot, and add 2/3 of the sauce to it and stir well. When serving, pile the rest of the sauce on top with the Parmesan.

Recipe: Pork with Sage & Prosciutto {Saltimbocca}

2 best quality pork cutlets 
olive oil
6 fresh sage leaves
2 slices prosciutto 

Prepare the pork by coating each side in olive oil and salt/pepper. On the top side, place sage leaves on top, then cover each with a piece of prosciutto. Cover both with a single piece of plastic wrap, and using a cast iron pan (or rolling pin, or proper meat mallet) bash until it's 1/2 inch thick. 
Heat a skillet over medium, cook prosciutto-side down for 3-4 minutes until it crisps up. Flip and cook the rest 5-8 minutes until done.

Dobrou Chut'/Enjoy.
-- Jo


  1. Your description of the simmered minty artichokes has me drooling!

  2. The artichokes and saltimbocca were very good - definitly a repeat. The fettucine sauce wasn't that special- I have made better. Would like to try the proscuitto with chicken.

  3. Glad to hear you made it! I agree, the fettucine sauce is pretty simple, but I'm a Marsala junkie, and dig the subtle flavour it imparts. The original recipe calls for chicken giblets, which might give it a bit more oomph.


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