Italians take their food very seriously, the emphasis is always on the freshest ingredients, cooked to perfection with generous servings.
For many Italians food is almost a full-time adventure, from selecting fresh produce at the market to having a mid-morning espresso in a café, lunching at a stylish deli and picking up some antipasto for dinner on the way home.
Cafés, trattorias and bars are the mainstays of Italian life. However Italians are also very humble when it comes to preparing their food it’s all about simplicity as great pasta only needs decent tomatoes, seasoning, quality cheese, good olive oil and fresh herbs to make it a fantastic meal.
After a day spent touring Rome, experiencing the sights and sounds of this ancient city as well as shopping to my heart’s content along the Via Condotti, I’m overcome by the feeling I always experience when travelling – the need to learn to cook the local food.
My host Rebecca Mampane of the South African embassy in Rome enrolled in a one day cooking course and I went with her. My teacher for the day was Carmela Pinto e’Nunzia, she gives her classes in her elegant home which has endless views of the city. Fortunately, she speaks fluent English!
We started off preparing bruschetta, an array of toppings for Italian bread, we then made pasta from scratch, a variety of sauces to go with it and three desserts tiramisu cassata and zabaglioni. Carmela explains the history of the various ingredients, the difference between pancetta and bacon, pecorino and Parmesan cheese, and I’m already feeling like an Italian cook and loving every moment.
Carmela explains that the wonder of Italy’s cuisine is its diversity, with each region of the country maintaining its own unique culinary tradition. Favoured dishes may vary greatly, but the common factor is the passion that is put into preparing them – and the delicious, comforting quality that is the hallmark of an authentic Italian meal.