Food is at the heart of Italian culture. Masterchef Travel offers two new food tours which delve into the culinary depths of this charismatic nation. Let us journey through a full course menu, discovering a selection of gastronomic delights in one greedy sitting.
L’Aperativo – Aperol Spritz and cichetti (Veneto). This popular bright orange, bitter-sweet aperitif is a refreshing mix of Prosecco, Aperol liqueur and soda water. Nibble on cicchetti to stave off your appetite, small snacks which are served in bacari, traditional Venetian cicchetti bars. The choices range from miniature sandwiches stuffed with fresh local ingredients to fried fare.
L’Antipasto – Fettunta (Tuscany). Bruschetta, but without the tomato topping. Slices of crusty, toasted bread are lightly rubbed with fresh garlic cloves, drizzled with the new olive oil of the season and seasoned with salt. This starter celebrates the fundamental ingredient of Italian cooking. It can’t get much simpler than this, or tastier.
Il Primo – Orecchiette alle cime di rapa (Puglia) Pasta, the staple food of Italy, comes in all shapes and sizes, the names and types varying according to region. In Puglia the typical pasta shape resembles little ears, hence the name orecchiette. This is often served simply with a sauce of olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes and the slightly bitter green vegetable, broccoli raab (or if translated literally from the Italian, “turnip tops”). A sprinkling of freshly grated Pecorino Romano on top finishes off this humble dish.
Il Secondo – Ossobuco alla Milanese (Milan, Lombardy) translates awkwardly as ‘bone with a hole’. Veal shank, normally quite tough, is cross cut so that it contains a section of thigh bone. The bone marrow from the centre melts during braising and mixes with the vegetables resulting in wonderfully tender meat, a rich stew and a bone with a hole! Traditionally served with risotto alla Milanese or polenta, this is a meal in itself.
Il Contorno – Carciofi alla giudia (Rome, Lazio) or ‘Jewish-style artichokes.’ Traditional dishes of the Jewish ghetto in Rome such as this date back centuries. Served in season in spring, whole artichokes are trimmed, cleaned, rubbed with lemons and soaked in water and lemon juice, seasoned and then deep-fried. The result is a golden sunflower, nutty and crisp on the outside, warm and earthy on the inside.
Il Dolce – Cannoli (Sicily) will satisfy any sweet tooth. In their most basic form these are thin tubes of pastry packed with a creamy ricotta filling flavoured with vanilla, cinnamon or orange flower water. It is said that this recipe dates back to when Sicily was under Arabic rule and the women of the Muslim harem spent their time making such dainties. Indeed Cicero described a dessert which he enjoyed very similar to cannoli.
Il Digestivo – Limoncello (Campania). This lemon liqueur, traditionally made from the zest of Sorrento lemons steeped in vodka and sugar syrup, is served chilled.
Finally, il caffe – only a powerful espresso will do.
MasterChef Travel is a new collection of small-group food tours, focusing on the world’s great cuisines. Celebrating great food and its place in local cultures, the holidays will also reveal the wonders of some of the most fascinating parts of the world, as well as broaden your culinary horizons.