Recipes from Rome: Building community from 'Market to Table'
I’ve been in Rome, Italy for about five minutes and already I can’t imagine myself being any happier anywhere else in the world. One of the main reasons for this is, of course, the food. It is so wonderfully easy to find somewhere delicious for a quick bite or a long, delicious meal.
Equally accessible to restaurants are good markets, of which they seem to be bustling in most piazzas every morning. Romans have told me that the market I go to in the Piazza di San Cosimato is too expensive, but I spent only €5 there this morning for my vegetables for the week, so I’m pretty happy.
Last week, I was lucky enough to spend the day at Latteria Studio, a “food photography and multi-function cooking space” in Rome. I participated in one of its “Market-to-Table” classes, hosted by Alice Kiandra Adams, Rachel Roddy and Carla Tomasi. We spent the morning at Mercato Testaccio market, selecting produce and meat for the day. By the time I stumbled in, slightly late — long story — the group had finished their coffees and pastries and was ready to shop. I went with Alice and some of the other group members to pick out the meat for the day while others went with Rachel to pick out the produce.
The first thing you notice about the Testaccio market is the size. This is no small neighborhood market. There are stalls upon stalls of produce, meat, cheese, fish and just about anything else you can imagine. At 9:30 a.m, it was very quiet — a few shoppers milled around, but we had the market almost to ourselves. At the butcher's station, Alice selected a few sausages for our meal and helpfully asked the butcher to explain to us how to buy meat for a stew in Italian — very handy. We then met up with Rachel and selected the rest of the vegetables, including some very interesting looking mushrooms. Our final stop was for cheese (yay), where we were able to sample some pecorino romano (typical Roman sheep’s milk cheese) and parmigiano reggiano. All before 10 a.m. What a day.
When we arrived at Latteria Studio, Carla had prepared cinnamon rolls for all of us, which were delightful. The studio itself is quite homey: large windows filled the room with ample light for cooking and taking beautiful photographs. We ate some pastries and then tied on aprons and got to work.
Carla (bless her) had already prepared one large focaccia, which is an over-baked Italian bread, for the group to eat for lunch, as well as the dough for several other focaccine (mini focaccia). We began by making the stuffing for our mushroom and chestnut ravioli, which was divine. Some of that stuffing also went on top of one of the focaccine, along with some of Carla’s house-cured pancetta. The other focaccine were topped with red onion, potato and rosemary, respectively. Carla taught us how to use our fingers to push the dough out while forming a bit of a rim for a crust, which was very fun. We also got the chance to make, roll out and stuff chestnut flour pasta for our ravioli.
While all of that was going on, still other members of the group were preparing a fried spinach and ricotta fritter, which made a lovely pre-lunch snack along with some local, natural white wine. As if we didn’t have enough food, more was being made. Broccoletti ripassati (twice cooked), sausages and artichokes were prepared, as well as an absolutely incredible orange cake that will probably haunt me for the rest of my life, no big deal.
By the time we sat down for lunch we had already noshed on the fritters and the focaccine, but we had also cooked for hours so we ate with gusto. First was the ravioli, which were tender, sweet and coated in a butter cream sauce made by Carla. Next came the broccoletti, sausages and a surprise puntarelle prepared by Rachel. Quick puntarelle crash course, since there is no translation because it is a distinctly Roman dish. Puntarelle is a type of chicory that is sliced so that when it is soaked in ice water, it curls. It is then dressed in garlic, anchovies and olive oil, and it is wonderful. Come to Rome, try the puntarelle. We also enjoyed Carla’s previously prepared focaccia. Next was the orange cake, which, as I said, will haunt me for the rest of my life because it is the best cake I have ever tasted. I was told by Rachel to never call a cake moist and damp, so I won’t do that. But I kind of told you anyway.
All in all, the day lasted from 9:30 a.m. until just after 4 p.m. We shopped, cooked, laughed and talked all day long. Cooking together is one of the oldest ways of building community — so grab some friends, get some groceries and go to town.
Julia Terranova is a School of Arts and Sciences junior studying abroad in Rome. Her column “Recipes from Rome” runs on alternate Wednesdays.
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