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When in Rome . . .

31 January 2014

iStock

MOST of Christmas, for us, was spent nursing English colds in Rome.

I have always found food writers' purple passages about the wonderful markets near their little place in France, or the cheeses they discovered in the Alps, unnecessary. So I won't tell you about the salletings in the market stalls of the Campo de Fiori, or the colours, size, and crispness of the fruit and veg in even back-street shops.

It was instructive to talk to Jan about Italian cooking. She explained about the soffrito that is the basefor most classic Italian dishes. Wikipedia puts this under the heading of the French mirepoix (diced vegetables), but my reading in Italy informs me that it was Italian cooking that inspired French cuisine.

Soffrito is a finely chopped mixture of garlic, onion, carrot, celery, and herbs, fried very gently in oil. The Germans and Dutch use leeks, carrot, and celeriac, and call it Suppengrün (soup greens), or soepgroente; and Cajuns use onions, celery, and peppers, and refer to it as the Holy Trinity.

Preboggion are bunches of fresh herbs, and I made this Soup for us with bright-green fresh pesto.

olive oil
1 onion
1 celery stick
handful of parsley, marjoram,  chives
green vegetables, such as Savoy  cabbage, watercress, spinach,  leeks, chard, cut finely
1.2l (2 pt) vegetable stock
175g (6 oz) long-grain rice
4 tablespoons pesto

Finely chop the onion, celery, and herbs, and fry them very gently for a few minutes. Add the green vegetables and stock, and simmer till tender. Add the rice, and simmer until it is just cooked. Just before serving the soup, stir in some pesto and seasoning. Serve with grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese.

This Millecosedde soup ("a thousand things") answered the need to use up all the odds and ends of pasta and leftover vegetables.

olive oil
garlic cloves
1 onion
1 carrot
2 celery sticks
parsley and marjoram
1 bunch of spinach, shredded
half a cabbage, shredded finely
left-over cooked pulses
left-over dried pasta
potatoes, cut into small dice
mushrooms, sliced
1.2-1.8l (2-3 pt) vegetable stock

Make your soffrito with the oil, and finely chopped onion, carrot, herbs, and celery. Add the potato, and cook for a few minutes. Add the greens and mushrooms, and cook for a few more minutes. Add the pasta, and pour in enough stock for the pasta to cook. Allow the soup to simmer until the pasta is tender, and then add any cooked pulses you care to (lentils, chickpeas), and more stock to get the consistency you desire. Season, and serve with grated pecorino cheese.

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