Saturday, 23 April 2016

Recipes from Rome - Pasta e Ceci


For today's recipe I have once more turned to my favourite cook book by Rachel Roddy. Rachel also writes a weekly column, 'A Kitchen in Rome', for Guardian Cook. One of the reasons for making today's soup was that I so love the article 'Second Helpings' , where Rachel speaks tenderly of times spent with her grandparents whilst growing up in England & eating a soup not dissimilar to pasta e ceci.

Start with a soffritto of onion, garlic, carrot & celery.

Heat Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a large pan. Don't be miserly with the EVOO - 6 tablespoons is what the recipe requires.

Add the vegetables and cook gently - this takes longer than you might think but you will know when they are ready by the fragrant aroma.
Add 2 tablespoons of tomato puree, a sprig of rosemary & a pinch of dried chilli flakes. Cook until the herby perfume fills the air.

Add 2 tins of drained and rinsed chickpeas, a litre of hot water, pinch of salt and a parmesan rind. Rachel calls these rinds 'treasure' and they surely are. Their addition transforms a soup.
Let the soup simmer away for about 20 minutes & then transfer half to a blender.

Return to the pan and add the pasta. You may need more water here. The pasta I used was far too large a shape but it was what I had to hand. I could have bashed it in to smaller pieces but next time I will try & remember Jamie Oliver's thrifty tip to keep all the odd bits of broken pasta for such an occasion.
Cook until the pasta is ready & there you have it.....lunch!

Sunday, 10 April 2016

So Much to See....So Little Time

The offer of a cheap flight & a bargain B&B close to the Vatican makes it is hard to resist a trip to Rome, even if only for a weekend.
Make the most of every minute with this itinerary.

Book in to one of the four stylish guest rooms of Quodlibet Bed & Breakfast and you can be sure that your hosts,  Agostino & Gianluca, will go out of their way to make your stay extra special.

The location is just one block away from Ottaviano Metro Station and right next door to Dolce Maniera, a 24 hour bakery, which makes it just about perfect in my book!

As you will be arriving early evening, it makes sense to take advantage of the car transfer service offered by the B&B. Also, if you e-mail your hosts beforehand with the restaurant details in this itinerary I'm sure they will make all the necessary bookings for you.
This means that once you have dropped your luggage & congratulated yourselves on finding such a little gem of a B&B you can head straight off to Sorpasso for dinner. Details & walking directions can be found on this map.
We love so many aspects of this restaurant - the shabby chic d├ęcor, the friendly and welcoming staff and, not least of all, the outstanding food. As you walk in you will see rows of prosciutto waiting to be hand sliced - a shared charcuterie board is a good way to start your meal.

You are sure to find the classic Roman pasta dishes such as carbonara, matriciana, gricia and cacio e pepe on the menu too, sometimes served with a creative twist. We sampled the latter which was made with Sarawak peppercorns & pecorino cheese.

They also stock wines from our favourite Lazio winemaker, Damiano Ciolli (you can read about our visit to his vineyard here)

All the desserts are made 'in house'. I can personally recommend the cannoli, the crunchy shells are filled with fresh ricotta as they are bought to the table, just as they should be. You will walk off those calories on your way back to the B&B!

After your delicious breakfast served in your room you will be ready for your visit to St Peter's Basilica. As it is a Jubilee year you might want to take the opportunity to walk through the Holy Door, only possible during such a year. If you wish to do this you should register online before leaving home.
Pope Francis opened the door on December 8th last year and once the year is over it will be sealed again until the next Jubilee.

 The central doors are impressive too. They came from the original St Peter's Basilica and are the work of the Florentine craftsman known as Filarete. The panels depict the crucifixion of St. Peter.

Once inside, check out the inside of the door, where you will see the 'signature' of Filarete - seven figures joyfully dancing. These are Filarete and his assistants with the tools of their trade in their hands.

 The doors on the far left are known as the Doors of Death as funeral processions pass through here. The gruesome depictions of martyrdoms on the panels were designed by Giacomo Manzu.

Many treasures await inside. Some of the highlights include Michelangelo's Pieta.....

...... The seated statue of St Peter, his foot worn from the touch of generations of pilgrims......

.......the amazing baldacchino (altar canopy) by Bernini......

.....and one of my favourite angels in all of Rome

It is worth enduring the slightly claustrophobic walk to top of the dome (you can take an elevator for part of the way) for the amazing views , as well as getting up close to the mosaics at the base of the cupola.

Once back down to earth, step out in to the piazza and locate one of the two discs in line with the fountains to experience an optical illusion. If you stand on the disc facing the colonnade you will see that the three lines of columns appear to be one.

All this walking and climbing will have hopefully built up an appetite for some of the best pizza al taglio (by the slice) in Rome.
Leave the square through the left hand colonnade (with your back to the basilica) and follow the Vatican walls all the way round past the museum entrance.

Take the steps down, opposite the entrance and turn left on to Via Angelo Emo and continue along until you see Via della Meloria on your right. Your destination, Pizzarium is at number 43 on this street. The toppings on these pizza slices are fresh, seasonal and inventive but my favourite is still the simple potato and rosemary. Gabriele Bonci, founder of Pizzarium, is known as the 'Michelangelo' of dough and once you have taken one bite you will realise why.

You can eat at the counters that line the walls and there is wine on tap as well as craft beers and soft drinks available. Amazing food at an affordable price.

Continue on to Via Cipro and cross the road to La Tradizione, my favourite Rome deli and perfect for picking up foodie souvenirs which you can store in your room fridge at the B&B.(Saturday opening hours 8.00 - 2.00, 4.30 - 8.00)

A 15 minute stroll along Via Cipro, Via Andrea Doria & Viale delle Milzie will bring you back to the B&B for a well earned rest.
For late afternoon/early evening  I'm suggesting a trip to a viewpoint and pre dinner drinks on a hidden terrace , but first a little caffeine 'pick me up' at my favourite cafe in all of Rome. Not only is the coffee outstanding at Sciascia (directions here), but it is served in china cups by white coated baristas in lovely surroundings.

It is possible to use public transport from here to your destination but because you are here for such a short time (& buses are not that reliable!) I would recommend using a Uber taxi.
Get dropped off at Piazzale Garibaldi on the Janiculum Hill and you will see the whole of Rome spread out before you.

Pick up a couple of beverages from the kiosk and sit and drink in the view.

When you manage to tear yourself away, continue along Passeggiata del Gianicolo until you reach Fontana di Acqua Paola for yet more stunning views.

The fountain marks the end of one of the many aqueducts that bought water in to the city. This particular aqueduct was restored by Pope Paul V, hence the name

Retrace your steps and take the steep stairs down, a short cut which will bring you on to Via Garibaldi. At number 27 is the entrance to the luxurious Hotel Donna Camilla Savelli - a former monastery designed by Borromini. This 17th century architect was the arch enemy of Bernini, whose works you will see tomorrow. The forecourt of the hotel shows off Borromini's trademark love of convexes & concaves.

Head up to the rooftop bar where you can enjoy drinks with a view of Trastevere

When it is time for dinner take a Uber taxi or cab back to Prati and L'Arcangelo (Via Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli, 59) Chef Arcangelo Dandini creates amazing classic dishes of 'cucina romana'. Start with the suppli, fried rice croquettes . Dandini works from an ancient recipe that includes chicken giblets as an ingredient.

Gnocchi is usually  eaten on Thursdays in Rome but L'Arcangelo's is so popular that it is almost always on the menu. Truly this is the best gnocchi you will ever taste - little fluffy potato pillows served with an amatriciana sauce. A Roman classic dish


Skip dessert and head for your first gelato of the trip. From the restaurant turn left on to Via Cicerone. It is literally a five minute walk to Gelateria dei Gracchi (directions here) Flavours are dependent on the seasons but all are delicious. My favourite is pistachio, with a hint of salt & the pieces of pistachio running through,resulting in a lovely texture.

A fifteen minute walk will take you back to Quodlibet B&B (directions here)

After breakfast head out to Ottaviano metro station & purchase your tickets from the machine (€1.50) 

Take the train heading in the direction of Anagnina and alight at Flaminio.
This will bring you to the gateway that leads in to Piazza del Popolo.

This magnificent archway has greeted many a pilgrim as they entered the city.
The square itself is impressive too.

On your left is the church of Santa Maria del Popolo . If you have seen the film 'Angels and Demons' the Chigi chapel on the right hand side as you enter will be familiar.

The Chigi chapel was designed by Raphael and the sculpture of Habakkuk & the Angel is by Bernini

The chapel on the left hand side of the altar is always crowded as it houses two powerful Caravaggio paintings - The Crucifixion of St Peter & The Conversion of St Paul.

Walk across the square and take the left hand street, Via Babuino then turn left on to Via Margutta. Continue along to the Spanish Steps.

The steps may still be undergoing restoration at the time of writing but the Boat Fountain is looking as good as new since it had a clean up.

The house at the bottom of the steps on the right hand side is where the young poet, Keats, died.

Head towards the column on Piazza Mignanelli.....

.....and take the road to the right beyond the column, Via Propaganda. You are making your way to the Trevi Fountain. Carry on down Via Sant'Andrea delle Fratte & on to Via Nazareno where you may catch a glimpse of the ancient roman aqueduct that feeds the Trevi Fountain.

Cross Via del Tritone and take Via della Stamperia to the fountain which is looking splendid after restoration.

Don't forget to throw your coins in!
Take Via Muratte from the fountain, cross Via del Corso on to Via di Pietra which will bring you to Hadrian's Temple.

Continuing on, Via Pastini will lead you to the Pantheon.

The interior is full of splendid tombs, including that of Raphael, but the oculus steals the show every time

Walk around to Piazza Sant'Eustachio to the iconic cafe of the same name. This is one cafe where we like to pay extra to sit at one of the outdoor tables, watched over by the stag on the nearby church.

From the cafe take Via Stadiari to Corso del Rinascimento. On the way you will see a fountain close to the heart of librarians - the Book Fountain

Cross the Corso in to Piazza Navona where you will see splendid works by both Borromini (Church of Sant'Agnese) and Bernini (Fountain of the Four Rivers)

The many street entertainers and artists in the square ensure a delightful stroll from one end of the piazza to the other.

Head to the top of the square and leave at the exit near to the Tourist Information office. Turn right on to Piazza di Tor Sanguigna. Here you get a glimpse of the Stadium of Domitian on which Piazza Navona is built.

Continue on Via dei Coronari, a street traversed by pilgrims long ago and served by the rosary makers after whom it is named. This will bring you to Ponte Sant'Angelo, lined with Bernini angels.

Cross over the bridge and turn left, continuing along Lungotevere Vaticano until you reach Borgo Santo Spirito. Your lunch destination today is a dining room in a 15th century palazzo with vaulted frescoed ceiling . La Veranda lies within Hotel Columbus and will be familiar to you if you have seen the film 'The Great Beauty'.The entrance is through the garden at Borgo Santo Spirito 73

As you would imagine it is quite pricey to eat here but on Sundays brunch is served where four fixed price menus are offered including unlimited coffee & juice. You can see the menu on their Facebook page - here is this weeks (in Italian)

After brunch walk through the hotel to the entrance on Via Conciliazione. In the courtyard you will see a well head, decorated with an oak tree.

The oak tree is a symbol of the Della Rovere family who owned the palazzo.
Directions for the 15 minute walk back to your B&B are here, where you can enjoy some well earned 'downtime' before heading back out again later.
Take the metro to the Colosseum Pick up your €1.50 tickets from the machines at  Ottaviano (buy your tickets for the return journey at the same time) and take the train to Colosseo, changing at Termini. The view as you exit the metro station is awesome.

To the right is the Arch of Constantine, known as the 'cut and paste' arch as it was made up of friezes from other buildings.

Walk up Via Fiori Imperiale (there is quite a lot of construction work for metro C going on at the beginning of the walk)

On the left hand side you will see huge maps that show the expansion of the Roman Empire. Statues of Roman Emperors line the road, alongside their respective Forums.

When you have almost reached the end, turn left in to Via San Pietro in Carcere. The ruins on your left are the Forum of Caesar. As you continue on you will pass the Mamertine prison where St Peter was imprisoned on the orders of Emperor Nero.
Follow the road around to the right and go up the steps until you reach a viewpoint over the Forum. The Arch of Septimus Severus is right in front of you.

This triumphal arch was built to celebrate Emperor Septimus Severus' victory in Parthia (modern day Iran). The inscription was originally in gleaming bronze letters but the bronze has long since been stolen away. However the inscription is still readable and you can see where Septimus Severus' son Caracalla had his brother, Geta's,  name scratched out after killing him and becoming Emperor. It is on the third line from the bottom.

Continue uphill to the Campidoglio.

This beautiful square was designed by Michelangelo. The equestrian statue in the centre is of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (who featured in the film 'Gladiator') The statue is a replica - the original is inside the museum here.
If you bear round to the right of the centre building, you will get another view of the Forum. This time you are closer to the Temple of Saturn, where the spoils of war were stored in Imperial Rome. If you have timed it right the Forum will be bathed in the light of the setting sun.

Retrace your steps and walk down the wide staircase, between the statues of Castor & Pollux. To your right is the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli which was built on the site of the Temple of Jupiter where, according to legend, the Tiburtine Sybil foretold the birth of Jesus to Emperor Augustus.

Turn right at the bottom of the steps and head towards the Altare della Patria, the big white building otherwise known as the 'Wedding Cake' Before you reach there glance down. You will see the ruins of an ancient tenement block that was once four storeys high.

The island in the middle of the crossings in Piazza Venezia offer a good photo oportunity.

Continue over the crossing to Trajan's Column.

The column celebrates Emperor Trajan's campaigns in Dacia (Romania) and if you continue on you can peer over in to Trajan's market - an Ancient Roman shopping mall.

Walk on past the Forums of Augustus and Nerva until you come to Largo Corrado Ricci, where you turn right & continue on to Via Cavour. The first right turn will bring you to the courtyard of Alle Carette - your dinner venue.
In your short break you have experienced Roman pasta specialties & pizza al taglia. Now it is time for Roman pizza - thin crust as opposed to the thicker crust of a pizza from Naples.
Everyone has their favourite pizzeria & Alle Carette is mine. 

From here it is a hop, skip & jump to Cavour metro to take you back to Ottaviano (changing at Termini) &. your B&B
Here ends your short break but, hey, you threw your coins in the Trevi Fountain so you will be back.