The Cooking of Rome

This is a menu I created with dishes inspired by the wonderful food I had in Rome. I remember eating the most delicious pizza topped with zucchini flowers. It was delicious and beautiful. I also tried cheeses from other regions of Italy, including burrata cheese, served with slightly tart and sweet fresh apricot compote.

Romanesco, a bright green cauliflower native to Rome, was also served in many of the cafes during spring time. It was served with a briny caper sauce and a generous grating of pecorino Romano cheese, a sheep’s milk cheese similar to parmesan and the official cheese of Rome.

While in Rome I picked up a jar of a locally made chocolate hazelnut spread from a specialty food shop. Think Nutella, but much richer and more natural tasting. I remember the first time I opened the jar when I got home from Italy. The smell of chocolate and hazelnuts immediately filled the room. I dug my spoon in and pulled out a healthy bite. The taste and texture were so dreamy and smooth, I could’ve easily eaten the entire jar! Somehow I found the strength to put the lid back on and save it for later when it could be shared with my family and friends, thickly spread on toasted bread with berries, mint and toasted almonds.

 

 

Here are my recipes for a Dinner in Rome!

Squash Blossom Pizza with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Basil Pesto

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of pizza dough (I like Trader Joe’s whole wheat dough)
  • 6-8 zucchini blossoms
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 8 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated

Ingredients for the Basil Pesto:

  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (walnuts also work well and are cheaper)

Directions:

Make the Basil Pesto:

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Spread the nuts out on a sheet tray and roast until brown, 5-6 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool. Combine the nuts, basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in a small food processor and process until smooth with some chunks remaining.

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Line a sheet tray with foil and drizzle with olive oil. Stretch the dough out on the sheet tray to form a 12” x 6” rectangle. Drizzle the top with olive oil. Place in the oven and bake for 8 minutes until partially baked. Remove from the oven, spread the top with the pesto, top with the cheese, cherry tomatoes & squash blossoms. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 8-10 minutes until browned.

 

 

Roasted Cod with Lemons, Olives & Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Fresh cod filets (about 4)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1 large lemon cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 pint Cherry Tomatoes
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 bunch fresh basil

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Heat the olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Generously sprinkle both side of the fish with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the flour over one side of the fish. Place floured side down in the hot pan and cook for 3 minutes until browned and crisp. Turn the fish over and place in the oven. Cook for an additional 8-10 minutes until tender and flaky. Top with the lemon wedges, chopped basil, cherry tomatoes, olives and a drizzle of the balsamic vinegar.

 

 

Romanesco Cauliflower with Capers

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Romanesco Cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped capers
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • Pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp grated pecorino Romano cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with cold water and a few ice cubes. Place the Romanesco into the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain and immediately place in the cold water bath. Remove the Romanesco and allow to dry on a towel. In a small bowl mix together the capers, chopped herbs, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and vinegar. Place the Romanesco on a sheet tray lined with foil and drizzle half the caper mixture over it. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle with the remainder of the caper sauce. Sprinkle with the pecorino Romano cheese.

 

 

Crostini with Burrata & Apricot Compote

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 Small French Baguette, sliced
  • 1 lb. fresh apricots, quartered
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 8 oz. container fresh burrata cheese
  • 1 bunch of fresh sage
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the sliced apricots into a medium sized sauce pan with the sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then cover and turn the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside until room cool. Place the baguette slices onto a sheet tray lined with foil and generously coat with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Place in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until browned. Drain the Burrata and place on a plate, spooning the compote over the burrata and drizzling with the balsamic vinegar. Top with the fresh sage and serve with the toasted baguette slices.

 

 

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Pecorino Romano & Lemon Zest

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fingerling potatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt & Pepper
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking tray with foil. Slice each potato in half lengthwise. Place the potatoes cut side down on the tray and generously coat them with 2-3 tbsp of olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until browned and crispy, turning once after 20 minutes to prevent them from burning. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the lemon zest, cheese and parsley.

 

 

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 dozen squash blossoms (available at many farmer’s markets)
  • 8 oz container of ricotta
  • 8 oz. container of mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tbsp grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Remove the inner stamen from the blossoms and gently wipe off any dirt. In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, mascarpone cheese, pecorino Romano, basil, lemon zest, garlic powder and salt & pepper to taste. Place the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large plain tip. Place the tip into the center of the blossom, gently pressing until the flower is full. Place the blossoms on a sheet tray lined with foil and sprayed with non stick oil spray. Bake for 15 minutes or until the blossoms are cooked through to the center.

 

 

Crostini with Ricotta, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Basil & Balsamic

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 Small French Baguette, sliced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 8 oz. container ricotta
  • 1 bunch of fresh basil
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the cherry tomatoes on a sheet tray lined with foil and drizzle with olive oil. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes start to wilt. Place the balsamic vinegar in a microwaveable glass bowl and cook for 2-3 minutes until thickened, checking after 2 minutes (the vinegar continues to thicken as it cools). Place the baguette slices onto a sheet tray lined with foil and generously coat with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Place in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until browned. Spoon 1-2 tbsp of the ricotta on each slice. Top with 2-3 cherry tomatoes, a few basil leaves and drizzle with balsamic reduction.

 

 

Crostini with Nutella & Raspberries

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 Small French Baguette, sliced
  • 1 pint raspberries
  • 1 8 oz. container Nutella
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/2 cup raw sliced almonds

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Spread the almonds out on a baking tray and bake for 8-10 minutes until toasted. Place the baguette slices onto a sheet tray lined with foil and generously coat with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Place in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until browned. Spoon 1-2 tbsp of the Nutella on each slice. Top with 2-3 raspberries, a few mint leaves and some toasted almonds.

 

 

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