Dang. I was bringing in eggplant and basil today when I began thinking about the gorgeous flavors and food that is Italian cuisine. I realized that I SPACED writing about my trip to Rome a few months ago. In the spirit of "better late than never," here goes!
Seemingly everywhere we went, Rome offered delicious food.
From rich Gelato to soft, warm mozzarella, fine Salumi and piles of fresh pasta. Even during our private tour of the Vatican (where we were blocked from St. Peter's because Pope Francis himself was using it- kind of cool) there were amazing cured meat sandwiches. Crusty fresh bread with Prosciutto, Salami or Capocollo. Nothing else and they were perfect. Italy takes enormous pride in their food. Not necessarily complex, but thoughtfully and perfectly prepared. There's a definite emphasis on quality.
I thought I'd share some pics from my favorite meal in a small, family-owned trattoria in the Campo Marzio. Of course, I photographed the dishes and wine that we enjoyed for your viewing pleasure. There were crisp salads and a little antipasti to start: a roasted sweet pepper and eggplant with a warm, fresh ball of Mozzarella and basil. So simple and really, really excellent. My youngest son ordered the Lobster Diavola, the elder chose pizza (always), Mom the Osso Buco and I had Cacio de Pepe.
Cacio e Pepe is a traditional Roman Pasta dish-and was very honestly my favorite meal in Italy. It is very simple but incredibly satisfying. You should add this one to the recipes you commit to memory. Check out the video from @SeriousEats for a fool-proof guide. (Although, if you have access to fresh pasta, definitely use that in lieu of dried.)
So the thing about carrot soufflé is that it can pretend to be a healthy side dish (it isn't) but it really tastes like dessert. It is beautiful, unique and addicting. It was originally served to me in 2000 by my then-husband's aunt (a great cook, herself). When coming up with the first restaurant menu for my wine bar, we remembered how tasty it was and decided to add it. The rest is history. It became a signature item and was on the menu for 18 years. I can't claim to have created this, nor can Aunt Barb. She found it in the Indianapolis Star as a featured recipe many moons ago. It's been tweaked a bit over the years, but below is the version you've come to love. I hope you enjoy it. A great dish and a great memory.
Sweet Carrot Soufflé
4 pounds carrots
1 pound unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Peel the carrots, trim off ends and cook in salted water until fork tender. (Time will vary depending on the size of your carrots.) Drain the carrots.
Melt butter and pour into a blender along with eggs, butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and blend well. Add cooked carrots and blend again, until no lumps remain. It will look like an orange milkshake.
Grease a 9 by 13 baking dish and pour mixture in. Batter will be very near the top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 2-2.5 hours, OR until a toothpick comes out clean.
Watch it carefully. It shouldn't brown but will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan as it nears completion.
Cut the soufflé into squares or triangles to serve.
Pro Tip: This can be made, cooled and refrigerated until needed- up to three days in advance. Re-heats very well.
Elizabeth Morse cooks professionally, is an Advanced Master Gardener and lover of all things local.