June 6, 2012

Italian Home Cooking

As I relax and enjoy the Jubilee weekend, I am reminded of the last long weekend in April when Dave and I went to Italy for the Easter weekend with Maria and Esteban.  What made this trip special apart from spending time with our friends, was the fact we got to meet Maria's family and stay with them in their lovely home in Brescia, in the north of Italy, not far from Milan.  And as you can guess, it was a gastronomic feast as we were treated to some amazing Italian home cooking by Maria's mum, Emma. 

We had some lovely meals out in the historic towns of Mantua and Verona but the most memorable meals were definitely those served in the warm kitchen of Maria's family home with Maria's dad Ezio always providing entertainment.  Our first meal was a treat with a starter of cooked prawns which were soft but meaty and full of flavour, served with a light homemade seafood sauce.  This was followed by fresh handmade pasta served with a simple but tasty porcini mushroom and tomato sauce. The pasta was cooked al dente and the flavours were amazing. We wanted to eat loads but had to pace ourselves as this was followed up by melanzane parmigiana which was also perfect.  The eggplant was grilled instead of fried to reduce the oiliness and it was baked to perfection.  The meal was topped off by some homemade  limoncello from a friend and is the best I have ever had.

Homemade Pasta with Porcini & Tomato Sauce and Melanzane Parmagiana

We were then treated to a family meal the following day to celebrate Easter Sunday.  First course was lasagne which was to die for - it was the first time I had lasagne with slices of ham in it but it was divine and probably one of the best ever.  Secondi was vitello tonnato, an Italian dish of sliced veal served with a tuna sauce which was also really tasty.  For dessert we had an awesome strawberry mousse served with crushed amaretto biscuits and cream - so simple but sooo good!  What a great Easter family lunch.

Lasagne - Vitello Tonnato - Strawberry Mouse

That evening we had a simple meal of sliced meats but of course, being Italian, even sliced meats can make a feast.  For a start, there were 6 types of cured meats. Secondly, the meats were freshly sliced using their professional looking meat slicer which produced wafer thin slices of salami, speck, fiocchetto (one of my favourites), mortadella (Esteban's fave)  and culatello which is a local speciality.  As Maria and I agree, it is simple food like this which makes for a fantastic meal.  Add to it some olives, artichokes, bread, pickled vegetables and some local sparkling red wine, and I was starting to work out a way for me to move in with Maria's parents!

Freshly sliced meats - I want more!!

Our final dinner at home started as a light meal but became another gastronomic treat:  red wine risotto with a very good bottle of Valpolicella and the stock that was retained from braising the veal for the Vitello Tonnato.  Needless to say these 2 ingredients and Emma's skillful cooking made this simple risotto quite possibly one of the best risottos Dave and I will ever eat in our life!  Add some extra meats and a fresh monster wedge of Parmigiano REggiano cheese and we were in food heaven (and still working on Ezio and Emma to take me in to learn to cook or just to eat!).

Emma's Recipe Book - Red Wine Risotto - Parmigiano Reggiano

But of course all good things have to come to an end, but not before a final meal by Emma. This time it was 5 homemade pizzas, including Maria's favourite of shallots and blue cheese plus others featuring pepperoni, prosciutto and various cheeses.  It made me want to start making pizza at home although I was certain it wouldn't be nearly as good as Emma's given her many years of experience cooking Italian specialities.  I haven't even mentioned all the other little treats she made us including pear cake, white chocolate muffins and caramel brittle (which I was given a lesson in). 

Pear Cake & Homemade Pizzas

Needless to say it was really sad to leave after such a wonderful stay in Brescia - not only did we get to visit some lovely new places in Northern Italy and enjoy a gastronomic feast but the experience of a warm Italian family like Ezio, Emma and Maria's brother Paolo, is an experience we will always cherish. Grazie mille!

1 comment:

  1. oh WOW!!!! It's one of my dream to make pasta and it looks so much fun! I want to try when my kids are a little older and I have a little more time.... Yes, it's my excuse.. haha. But homemade Italian sounds so good!