Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors & Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City, written by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill, features over 85 traditional and contemporary dishes from Rome along with highlights from the city’s unique historical and cultural background. A few dishes are variations of popular Italian favorites (Coffee Granita, Potato Gnocchi, Rigatoni alla Carbonara, Pizza Bianca), but I love how a large portion of the book includes information that I have not seen repeated in other regional Italian books- including Torta di Ricotta (Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Cheesecake), Pizza al Contrario (Upside-Down Pizza), Lingua in Salsa Verde (Beef Tongue in Salsa Verde), Crostini con Burro e Alici (Butter and Anchovy Crostini), and more. I’ll also be sharing a recipe for Panna Cotta alla Menta con Salsa di Cioccolato, a Roman Mint Panna Cotta topped with Chocolate Sauce.
Katie Parla was born in New Jersey and graduated from Yale with an art history degree. After moving to Rome in 2003, she discovered a love for the food and earned a master’s degree in Italian gastronomic culture at the Università degli Studi di Roma “Tor Vergata” and a sommelier certificate from FISAR. She now works as a freelance food and beverage journalist, culinary guide, and lecturer highlighting the local food and drinks in over 20 food and travel guides. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Financial Times, Saveur, Food & Wine, Condé Nast Traveler, Condé Nast Traveller UK, Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, Lucky Peach, Corriere della Sera, Imbibe, Monocle, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Olive, AFAR, Punch, Wine Enthusiast, National Geographic Traveler, Eater, Delicious, Epicurious, Serious Eats, Food Republic, The Atlantic, Gather Journal, and The Sunday Times Magazine.
Kristina Gill was born in Nashville, Tennessee and moved to Rome in 1999 for work. She graduated from Stanford University and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. She now works in Rome as the food and drinks editor for Design*Sponge, a freelance photographer, and humanitarian advisor for food assistance/supporter of the United Nations’ World Food Programme in its fight agains hunger. She has been featured in National Geographic Traveler, Need Supply Co.’s Human Being Journal, VSCO, Atlas Quarterly, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Bon Appétit, Kinfolk, Airbnb, Lomography, and Belle Australia.
Chapters are divided by theme: Snacks, Starters, and Street Food; Classics and Variations; Cucina Ebraica; Quinto Quarto; Verdure; Bread and Pizza; Sweets; and Drinks.
Katie and Kristina’s love of Rome shines through the pages. I particularly enjoyed the closer look at Roman life, restaurants, and culture. The city has come a long way from a rural malarial backwater into the complex and thriving capital we know today. The history and its role in shaping Cucina Romana is explained all the way back to founder Romulus on April 21, 753 BC and through the years of separation among classes, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, and Papal rule. The minority Roman and Libyan Jewish groups are also featured.
The authors collaborated with some of the city’s great chefs to develop the recipes for the book. The names of the dishes are written in Italian and English. Every recipe includes a headnote with detailed background information, inspiration, and serving tips. Measurements are provided in US Customary and Metric (with Metric being preferred, particularly for baking).
The beautiful photography is provided by Kristina Gill and Matt Armendariz. The photos of the scenery, people, and architecture do a wonderful job of making me dream of hopping on a plane to Rome right away. Many of the recipes are accompanied by a full page photograph of the finished dish. A few of the bread instructions also include step-by-step photos.
Those interested in Italian/Roman food or planning to travel to Rome to experience the local cuisine in person will enjoy the dishes and history featured in this book. Recipes range from simple to day-long affairs. Fresh, seasonal produce and using every part of the animal/ingredient are highlighted, particularly in the Quinto Quarto chapter on using the offal and poor cuts of meat. Vegetarians and cocktail lovers also have plenty to choose from. There is a section with tips for stocking the kitchen from basic tools to ingredients, plus a resource guide for locating these items. Most of the ingredients needed are readily available at most larger grocery stores, but a few may be more difficult to find including fennel pollen, peperoncino (can substitute with dried chile flakes or fresh Thai bird’s-eye chiles), borlotti, and various offal. Substitution ideas are often provided.
The Panna Cotta alla Menta con Salsa di Cioccolato (Mint Panna Cotta with Chocolate Sauce) is a simple yet elegant dessert perfect for entertaining. Lightly sweetened milk and cream are heated until almost simmering and flavored with mint and vanilla. Gelatin is mixed in before transferring the liquid to ramekins. After refrigerating for 4 hours to overnight, it sets into a wobbly dessert and is served with a layer of chocolate sauce. If you are like my husband and don’t like chocolate, a berry sauce can be used as a substitute.
I served the Panna Cotta straight from the ramekins (or clear glasses). If you want to unmold them before serving, increase the amount of gelatin to 2 1/4-2 1/2 teaspoons. Pour about 2 tablespoons of chocolate sauce on the plate, unmold the ramekin over it, then top with a little fresh mint for garnish.
My panna cotta separated into two layers as it chilled. This is a normal occurrence due to the milk and cream.
The chocolate sauce was a little thin with just the two ounces of chocolate, so I bumped the amount closer to 4 ounces. The amount of mint added in your handful depends on how prominent you want the flavor to be. Make it a smaller handful if you want a more subtle mint flavor.
I also made Cacio e Pepe di Leonardo Vignoli, Coda alla Vaccinara (Braised Oxtail), Insalata di Misticanza (Micro Green Salad with Hazelnuts and Pecorino), and Pizzette (Little Puff Pastry Pizzas).
Cacio e Pepe has always been a favorite of mine and this recipe definitely doesn’t disappoint. Pasta is tossed in a simple Pecorino Romano and black pepper sauce. With only three ingredients, this dish comes together quickly and easily for a light lunch or primo. The seasonings were perfect and I didn’t need to change a thing.
Coda alla Vaccinara is a braised oxtail dish in a tomato vegetable sauce. It is a wonderful comfort food that is taken to the next level with the addition of raisins, pine nuts, and cocoa powder. This dish is best made a day in advance and left to sit overnight in the refrigerator to give the flavors a chance to develop. I served the leftovers with homemade pasta, but gnocchi would also be amazing.
Insalata di Misticanza is a Roman mixed salad made with a combination of micro greens and wild herbs. I used a mixture of leftover baby lettuce, arugula, kale and sunflower micro greens, and herbs from the garden. It is served with a light lemony olive oil dressing and topped with toasted hazelnuts and pecorino cheese.
Pizzette are little puff pastry pizzas. Evan and I had such fun making these together. He particularly enjoyed cutting out rounds of puff pastry and topping them with the seasoned tomato paste. They were also the perfect size for little hands. You can use store-bought pastry, but the recipe is also followed with a way to make a rough puff pastry (that can be assembled ahead of time). It wasn’t difficult at all, just takes a little extra time and rolling. The result was a flaky, buttery dough topped with a delicious, thick tomato sauce.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own.
Panna Cotta alla Menta con Salsa di Cioccolato (Roman Mint Panna Cotta with Chocolate Sauce)
Adapted from Tasting Rome
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored granulated gelatin
1 vanilla bean
Handful fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
Neutral oil for greasing ramekins
1/2 cup heavy cream
2-4 ounces dark chocolate, broken into small pieces or finely chopped
To make the panna cotta: In a small bowl, pour 2 tablespoons of water over the gelatin. Set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
Slice the vanilla bean in half. Scrape the seeds into a medium saucepan and add in the empty pods. Add in the mint sugar, milk, and cream. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring continuously and muddling the mint, until the mixture almost comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes, no longer.
Lightly grease 4 (5 1/2) ounce ramekins and set aside.
Stir the soaked gelatin into the cream mixture until dissolved. Strain, then transfer among the prepared ramekins, leaving room on the top for the chocolate sauce. Cover lightly and refrigerate until chilled and set, 4 hours to overnight.
Right before serving, prepare the chocolate sauce: In a small saucepan, heat the cream over low heat until steaming but not yet at a boil. Remove from heat. Place the chocolate in a small bowl and cover with the heated heavy cream. Let rest for 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Add more chocolate if needed to make a rich, chocolate sauce.
Pour the chocolate sauce over the panna cotta and serve immediately.